Cancer and its treatment do have a significant impact on your physical, emotional, and psychological health. It is an excellent achievement for a cancer patient to complete treatment successfully. Once the treatment is over, you can now, finally, look forward to a life that you plan to live to its fullest. After your initial recovery, you should target to improve your long-term health so that you can enjoy the years ahead as a cancer survivor.
Here’s what you can do to care for yourself after cancer treatment.
Regular exercise increases your well-being after cancer treatment and can speed your recovery. This can help reduce fatigue, weight gain, and loss of strength. In addition to regular exercise, try to avoid sitting or lying down for long periods. Exercise has many benefits, and some early studies suggested that it may also reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and the risk of dying of cancer. Many cancer survivors are concerned about cancer recurrence and want to do all they can to avoid it. Following are the benefits of regular exercise for cancer survivors.
- Increased strength and endurance
- Fewer signs and symptoms of depression
- Less anxiety
- Reduced fatigue
- Improved mood
- Higher self-esteem
- Less pain
- Improved sleep
- Lower risk of cancer recurrence
Adding physical activity to your daily routine doesn’t require much extra work. Focus on small steps to make your life more active. Take the stairs more often or park farther from your destination and walk the rest of the way. Check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program. With your doctor’s approval, start slowly and work your way up. As you recover and adjust, you might find that more exercise makes you feel 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 essential to your recovery.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet is essential for a cancer survivor. Include lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains. Eat at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Choose healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish and walnuts. Select proteins are low in saturated fat, such as fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. Choose healthy sources of carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables. This combination of foods will ensure you’re eating plenty of the necessary vitamins and nutrients to help strengthen your body. Following are the dietary guideline for cancer survivors:
- Include a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products in your diet.
- Limit those “extra” foods with calories but few nutrients like cookies and white bread.
- Consume healthy portions of probiotic and prebiotic foods.
- Avoid red meat and other processed meats.
Maintain a healthy weight
You may have gained or lost weight during treatment. Try to get your weight to a healthy level. Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you and the best way to go about achieving that goal weight. Cancer survivors who need to gain weight will likely involve finding ways to make food more appealing and easier to eat. Talk to a dietitian who can help you devise ways to gain weight safely.
Sleep problems are more common in people with cancer, even survivors. This can be due to physical changes, side effects of treatment, stress or other reasons. But getting enough sleep is an essential part of your recovery. Sleeping gives your mind and body time to rejuvenate and refresh to help you function at your best while awake. Good sleep can boost cognitive skills, improve hormone function and lower blood pressure. It can also just make you feel better in general. To optimize your chances of getting good sleep, practice healthy sleep hygiene:
- Avoid caffeine.
- Avoid computer or television screens before bedtime.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule.
- Exercise 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
- Keep your bedroom calm and dim.
As a cancer survivor, you may find that the physical, emotional and social effects have taken a toll on your psyche. Though no evidence managing stress improves the chances of cancer survival, using effective coping strategies to deal with stress can significantly improve your quality of life by helping relieve depression, anxiety, and symptoms related to cancer and its treatment. Effective stress management strategies may include:
- Relaxation or meditation techniques, such as mindfulness training
- Cancer support groups
- Medications for depression or anxiety
- Interacting with friends and family
Stop using tobacco
Smoking or chewing tobacco can increase your risk of certain types of cancer. Stopping now could reduce your risk of cancer recurrence and lower your risk of developing a second type of cancer (second primary cancer). If you have already tried quitting but haven’t had much success, take medical help. Consult with your doctor about resources to help you quit smoking.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Drinking alcohol is not suitable for your health. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Alcohol increases the risk of certain cancers, including mouth and throat. While drinking alcohol can cause cancer recurrence, it isn’t clear whether it can increase your risk of a second primary cancer. In addition to cancer risk, alcohol consumption increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and other health issues. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer survivors who choose to drink alcohol must limit their consumption to not more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.