Changes to think about during and after treatment
Having cancer and dealing with treatment can take a lot of time and energy, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. Maybe you are thinking about how to improve your health over the long term.
Make healthier choices
Think about your life before you learned you had cancer. Were there things you did that might have made you less healthy? Maybe you drank too much alcohol, ate more than you needed, used tobacco, or didn't exercise very often.
Now is not the time to feel guilty or blame yourself. You can start making changes today that can have positive effects for the rest of your life. Not only will you feel better but you will also be healthier.
You can start by working on those things that worry you most. Get help with those that are harder for you. For instance, if you are thinking about quitting smoking and need help, call us at 1-800-227-2345.
Eating right is hard for many people, but it can be even harder to do during and after cancer treatment. If you are still in treatment and are having eating problems related to your treatment, please call us for a copy of Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment. We also have Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment: Answers to Common Questions.
One of the best things you can do after treatment is to put healthy eating habits into place. You may be surprised at the long-term benefits of some simple changes. Try to eat 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Choose whole-grain foods instead of white flour and sugars. Try to limit meats that are high in fat. Cut back on processed meats like hot dogs, bologna, and bacon. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one or 2 drinks a day at the most. And don't forget to get some type of regular exercise. A good diet along with regular exercise will help you stay at a healthy weight and give you more energy.
Fatigue and exercise
Feeling tired (fatigue) is a very common problem during and after cancer treatment. This is not a normal type of tiredness but a "bone-weary" exhaustion that doesn't get better with rest. For some people, fatigue lasts a long time after treatment and can keep them from staying active. But exercise can actually help reduce fatigue and the sense of depression that sometimes comes with feeling so tired.
If you are very tired, though, you will need to balance activity with rest. It is OK to rest when you need to. To learn more about fatigue, please see our document, Fatigue in People With Cancer.
If you were very ill or weren't able to do much during treatment, it is normal that your fitness, staying power, and muscle strength declined. You need to find an exercise plan that fits your own needs. Talk with your health care team before starting. Get their input on your exercise plans. Then try to get an exercise buddy so that you're not doing it alone.
Exercise can improve your physical and emotional health.
- It improves your cardiovascular (heart and circulation) fitness.
- It makes your muscles stronger.
- It reduces fatigue.
- It lowers anxiety and depression.
- It makes you feel generally happier.
- It helps you feel better about yourself.
Long term, we know that exercise plays a role in preventing some cancers. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day on 5 or more days of the week. Children and teens should try for at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day on 5 or more days a week.
Last Medical Review: 04/22/2010
Last Revised: 06/22/2010