The bones are the first site of metastases for almost half of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). For many of these women, the bones will be the only site of metastases. This was the case for Lauren Huffmaster, who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer after she found a lump. Her breast cancer later metastasized (spread) to her bones.
As an MBC patient advocate who has been living with the disease for seven years, Lauren spoke on a recent episode of the Real Pink podcast about the important role nutrition plays in bone health for people living with bone metastases.
When she was first diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, Lauren worked with her doctor to change the types of foods she ate on a regular basis in order to help counterbalance the negative side effects of her medications.
“For the first six months of my treatments, I had a lot of side effects,” Lauren said. “I paid really close attention to my body and looked at what the medications were doing to me. Playing around with food to address the side effects really helped me a lot at the beginning.”
Now, seven years after her metastatic diagnosis, the changes Lauren made in her nutrition have helped her achieve a higher quality of life.
“I pay attention to the minerals I’m getting and the vitamins I’m getting through my food,” Lauren said. “It important to be very intentional about nutrition – not because I think it’s going to cure me, necessarily, but because I know my body needs it.”
Bones are constantly breaking down and rebuilding. Calcium, an essential nutrient in many foods, is needed for this process, but calcium concentration in the body tends to decline with age. Lauren has found that taking extra calcium helps her bones rebuild and stay strong.
“Because of the cancer in my bones, calcium is a really important thing for me to watch,” Lauren said. “I pay attention to the quality of my fingernails and the quality of my hair, and that tells me about the quality of my bones, how much calcium I’m absorbing and how strong they are at the moment.”
If Lauren notices any negative changes in her fingernails and hair, she works with her doctor to adjust her calcium intake. She also closely monitors her bloodwork with her doctor to evaluate her nutrition and make any changes if necessary.
“I know that after Christmas, my blood work won’t be great because I ate poorly, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to freak out every single year,” Lauren said. “I’m going to say, ‘Oh, that was Christmas. Now let’s move it back in the right direction.’ It gives you a sense of assurance of what’s happening in your body.”
In addition to closely monitoring her nutrition, Lauren pays close attention to how she treats her bones. She switched to carrying a backpack instead of a purse after she realized her purse strap was putting pressure on her spine.
“If I’m going to be taking medication for the rest of my life, I need to fortify my body so it can process the medication the right way,” Lauren said. “I made a lot of little shifts, but together they’ve added up and given me a high quality of life.”
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.