Leukemia--Acute Lymphocytic Overview

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After Treatment TOPICS

Lifestyle changes after treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia

You can't change the fact that you have had leukemia. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life – making choices to help you stay healthy and feel as well as you can. This can 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. Some people even start during cancer treatment.

Make healthier choices

For many people, a diagnosis of cancer helps them focus on their health in ways they may not have thought much about in the past. Are there things you could do that might make you healthier? Maybe you could try to eat better or get more exercise. Maybe you could cut down on alcohol, or give up tobacco. Even things like keeping your stress level under control may help. Now is a good time to think about making changes that can have positive effects for the rest of your life. You will feel better and 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 better

Eating right can be hard for anyone, but it can get even tougher during and after cancer treatment. Treatment may change your sense of taste. Nausea can be a problem. You may not feel like eating and lose weight when you don't want to. Or you may have gained weight that you can't seem to lose. All of these things can be very frustrating.

If treatment caused weight changes or eating or taste problems, do the best you can and keep in mind that these problems usually get better over time. You may find it helps to eat small portions every 2 to 3 hours until you feel better. You may also want to ask your cancer team about seeing a dietitian, an expert in nutrition who can give you ideas on how to deal with these treatment side effects.

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. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and limiting your alcohol intake may lower your risk for a number of types of cancer, as well as having many other health benefits.

Fatigue and exercise

Feeling very 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 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 anything. Get their input about your exercise plans. Then, try to find an exercise buddy so you're not doing it alone. Having family or friends involved when starting a new exercise program can give you that extra boost of support to keep you going when the push just isn't there.

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.

Exercise can improve your physical and emotional health.

  • It improves your cardiovascular (heart and circulation) fitness.
  • It can help you stay at a healthy weight.
  • It makes your muscles stronger.
  • It reduces fatigue.
  • It can help lower anxiety and depression.
  • It can make you feel happier.
  • It can help you feel better about yourself.

Long term, we know that getting regular physical activity plays a role in helping to lower the risk of some cancers, as well as having other health benefits.

Can I lower my risk of the leukemia progressing or coming back?

Most people want to know if there are certain lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their risk of cancer growing or coming back. Unfortunately, for most cancers there is little solid evidence to guide people. This doesn't mean that nothing will help – it's just that for the most part this is something that hasn't been well studied. Most studies have looked at lifestyle changes as ways of preventing cancer in the first place, not slowing it down or keeping it from coming back.

At this time, not enough is known about acute lymphocytic leukemia to say for sure if there are things you can do that will be helpful. Healthy behaviors such as not smoking, eating well, and staying at a healthy weight may help, but no one knows for sure. But we do know that these types of changes can have positive effects on your health that can extend beyond your risk of leukemia or other cancers.


Last Medical Review: 06/25/2013
Last Revised: 02/07/2014