Lifestyle changes after non-Hodgkin lymphoma
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.
Make healthier choices
For many people, finding out they have 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 the 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 the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for information and support.
Eating right is hard for many people, but it can be even harder during and after cancer treatment. 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.
Get more information in our document Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment: Answers to Common Questions.
Rest, fatigue, and exercise
Feeling tired (fatigue) is very common 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 and other side effects, please see the “Physical Side Effects” section of our Web site or “more information about non-Hodgkin lymphoma” to get a list of available information.
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 can make you feel generally happier.
- It helps 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 lymphoma growing or coming back?
Most people want to know if there are certain lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their risk of cancer progressing 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 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 keeping it from coming back.
At this time, not enough is known about non-Hodgkin lymphoma to say for sure if there are things you can do that will be helpful. Healthy behaviors such as not smoking, eating well, and keeping 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 lymphoma or other cancers.
Last Medical Review: 04/18/2013
Last Revised: 04/18/2013