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A Cancer Survivor’s Wellness Plan

June 20, 2014

Cancer can be life-changing. It can affect your goals, change your attitude, shape your behavior and even transform your outlook on life. As a cancer survivor, you’ll face a lot of changes in your daily routine—from the big to the small. Some may be easier than others, but sometimes, the most difficult changes can be the most important.

After cancer treatment, many survivors look to find ways to reduce the chance of their cancer coming back. This is the perfect time to take a good look at how you take care of yourself. The way you eat, the stress in your life and other poor lifestyle habits can put you at risk for recurrence. Making key lifestyle changes—no matter how difficult—is an important step to start living a healthier life.

There are several steps you can take to not only live healthier as a survivor, but reduce the chance of your cancer coming back as well. Here are some tips to get you started:

Eat Well After Cancer Treatment

If you didn’t practice healthy eating habits before your cancer diagnosis, now is a great time to make the change. Research has shown that a healthy, balanced diet may help reduce the risk of cancer and cancer recurrence. Try following these helpful tips to get you started on the path to eating well:
  • Eat a plant-based diet and try to limit the amount of red meat you eat
  • Incorporate five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet daily
  • Include more beans, legumes and whole grains in your diet
  • Choose foods that are low in fat and low in salt
  • Maintain a healthy weight
Before starting your new diet, it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor or a nutritionist first. They can help you tailor your diet to account for special dietary needs or restrictions that you have.

To learn more about eating well after cancer treatment, take a look at these from our very own Registered Dietitian Dawn Napoli.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Exercising and staying active is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy after cancer treatment. In fact, many studies have found that staying active after cancer can help lower the risk of recurrence and lead to longer survival.

Moderate exercise, such as walking, biking or swimming, for 30 minutes a day can have a huge impact on your health—and not just your physical health. It can help your emotional health as well by reducing anxiety and depression, improving your mood, boosting self-esteem and reducing fatigue, nausea, pain and diarrhea.

After cancer treatment, it is important to start an exercise program slowly and increase activity over time, working with your doctor or a physical therapist along the way. If you need to stay in bed during your recovery, even small activities like stretching or moving your arms and legs can help you relieve muscle tension, stay flexible and feel better overall.

Kick Smoking to the Curb

Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to stay healthy after cancer. In fact, research has shown that smoking can increase the chance of cancer recurrence—and not just at the same site as your original diagnosis.

Smoking is a dangerous habit that should be avoided altogether. While it may not be easy to stop smoking, there are plenty of tools and programs available right in your community to help you quit. Be sure to talk with your doctor for tools and tips on quitting smoking.

Cut Back on Alcohol Consumption

Some research suggests that drinking alcohol may actually increase your risk of developing certain types of cancers. That’s why it is usually best to avoid alcohol altogether following cancer treatment. However, if you do choose to drink, it should only be in limited quantities. Try limiting to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Talk With Your Doc

When you meet with your doctor post-cancer treatment, ask about creating a unique wellness plan that includes ways to take care of your physical, emotional, social and spiritual health. You should also talk with other members of your healthcare team, such as a social worker, clergy member, nurse or nutritionist, who can help support you on your path to wellness.

While you may feel a little nervous to talk with someone at first, know that your healthcare team is there to support you and set you up for success as a cancer survivor.

For more information about living well after cancer treatment, visit the American Institute for Cancer Research website.