Hearing the words “you have cancer” is very scary for most people. For those that are lucky enough to fight cancer, and beat it, the impact of those words never really goes away. After dealing with all of the emotions of a cancer diagnosis, and undergoing treatment, many survivors want to strive to live as healthy a life as possible. Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, you never want to hear that it has come back. While a healthy lifestyle cannot guarantee that cancer will never come back, a healthy lifestyle will help you live a longer and, hopefully, cancer free life.
One thing many people today struggle with is weight. It can be challenging to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly and if those things are neglected, weight gain often happens. Many people today are overweight or obese. Weight gain is hard on the body and it is wise for cancer survivors to maintain a healthy weight through nutrition and exercise so that they can stay as healthy as possible after cancer. It is no secret that what you put into your body will directly impact your health. That doughnut may taste delicious, and an occasional indulgence is fine, but you cannot be your healthiest if you are eating a doughnut every day. A healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats is best. The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health discussed clinical findings regarding the impact of a healthy diet on the rate of recurrence for survivors, “The Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS) randomized women with early-stage breast cancer to a low-fat diet and found a significant reduction in risk of recurrence. However, the women on the low-fat diet also lost weight, which may confound the dietary findings. In contrast, the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study found no effect of a high fiber, fruit, and vegetable and low-fat diet on recurrence among breast cancer survivors. Despite the known benefits of a healthy diet in preventing cancer, few specific diet components have been evaluated in cancer survivors. Data from the Nurses’ Health Study showed a significant reduction in mortality among breast cancer survivors adhering to a diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, poultry, and fish. Earlier analyses in this population suggested no effect of a low-fat diet, but a more recent report indicated dietary fat intake after diagnosis increases mortality risk in women with breast cancer. Similar results have been seen in other observational studies that evaluated dietary patterns. A high-fiber diet was non-significantly associated with reduced risk of mortality in a cohort of breast cancer survivors. Observational data have also linked dietary components to reduced risk of recurrence for men with prostate cancer, specifically intake of fish, tomato sauce, and monounsaturated fats. Fruit and vegetable consumption is also associated with improved quality of life, physical, and cognitive function in survivors.” While more research is needed, studies are showing an improved rate of recurrence as well as just simply improved health, prevention of diabetes and heart disease.
In addition to a healthy diet, it is important to stay active. The effects of cancer, as well as the side effects of treatment take a toll on the body. But, once you have been cleared by your physician for physical activity, it is important to be active on a regular basis. Mayo Clinic discusses the importance of exercise for cancer survivors, “With your doctor’s approval, start slowly and work your way up. The American Cancer Society recommends adult cancer survivors exercise for at least 30 minutes five or more days a week. As you recover and adjust, you might find that more exercise makes you feel even better. Sometimes you won’t feel like exercising, and that’s OK. Don’t feel guilty if lingering treatment side effects, such as fatigue, keep you sidelined. When you feel up to it, take a walk around the block. Do what you can, and remember that rest also is important to your recovery. Exercise has many benefits and some early studies suggested that it may also reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence and reduce the risk of dying of cancer. Many cancer survivors are concerned about cancer recurrence and want to do all they can to avoid it. While the evidence that exercise can reduce the risk of dying of cancer is preliminary, the evidence for the benefits of exercise to your heart, lungs and other body systems is substantial. For this reason, cancer survivors are encouraged to exercise.” In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising which will help you maintain a healthy weight, it is wise to avoid tobacco and alcohol. Tobacco should be avoided altogether and alcohol should be avoided or, at most, consumed in moderation. Lastly, with these healthy lifestyle choices, it is important to do the things that you love. When you are happy, you will be healthier so pursue the hobbies you love and spend time with the people you love. Enjoy your healthy lifestyle and leave cancer in the far, far distance.