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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

For many people, a diagnosis of leukemia 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 is hard for many people, but it can be even harder to do 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 causes 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 meals 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 practice healthy eating habits. 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 can lower your risk for a number of types of cancer, as well as having many other health benefits.

To learn more, see Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment: A Guide for Patients and Families.

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 often 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’s OK to rest when you need to. To learn more about fatigue, see Fatigue in People With Cancer and Anemia 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 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 heart fitness.
  • It can help you get to and 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 generally happier.
  • It helps you feel better about yourself.

Long term, we know that 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 AML progressing or coming back?

Most people want to know what they can do to reduce their risk of cancer progressing or coming back. Unfortunately, for the most part this is an area 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 preventing it from coming back.

At this time, not enough is known about AML to say for sure if there are things you can do that will help. Healthy behaviors such as not smoking, eating well, and staying at a healthy weight might help, but no one knows for sure.

So far, no dietary supplements have been shown to clearly help lower the risk of AML progressing or coming back. This doesn’t mean that none will help, but it’s important to know that none have been proven to do so.


Last Medical Review: 04/21/2015
Last Revised: 02/22/2016