Lifestyle changes after treatment for prostate cancer
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, having had 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 for information and support. This tobacco cessation and coaching service can help increase your chances of quitting for good.
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. 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.
Rest, 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.
- Along with a good diet, it helps you get to and stay at a healthy weight.
- It makes your muscles stronger.
- It reduces fatigue.
- It lowers anxiety and depression.
- It can make you feel generally 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 cancer growing 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 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.
Some recent research has suggested that men who exercise regularly after treatment may live longer than those who don't. It's not clear exactly how much activity might be needed, but more seems to be better. More vigorous activity may also be more helpful than less vigorous activity. Further studies are needed to follow up on these findings.
Other recent research has suggested that men who smoke are more likely to have their prostate cancer come back than men who don't smoke. More research is needed to see if quitting smoking is helpful, although quitting is already known to have a number of other health benefits.
Other healthy behaviors such as eating well and getting to or staying at a healthy weight may also help, but no one knows for sure. But we do know that these types of changes can have good effects on your health that can extend beyond your risk of prostate or other cancers.
Last Medical Review: 08/27/2013
Last Revised: 02/25/2014