Lifestyle changes can help:
- Strengthen your body so that you can withstand some of the rigors of treatment.
- Keep your immune system strong to aid in the fight against leukemia or related illnesses.
- Improve your emotional outlook, so you can enjoy life to the fullest, even during treatment for leukemia.
- Decrease the risk of other medical problems that could complicate your health.
Smoking is a known risk factor for many cancers and other health disorders. It can also increase the risk of complications from medical procedures and slow tissue healing.
When you quit smoking, the body immediately begins to repair itself. Quitting will help boost your immune system to help fight leukemia and improve recovery from treatment.
Reduce Your Risk of Infection
Leukemia and its treatments reduce the body's ability to respond to infections. This can increase the risk of infection, or increase the severity of common infections, like a cold or the flu. To decrease the risk of infection while going through leukemia treatment:
- Wash hands thoroughly and often. Hand washing is the most effective method of decreasing the chance of catching colds and flu. Carry hand sanitizer for times when washing is not convenient.
- Try to avoid crowds, especially during cold and flu season.
- Avoid touching eyes, mouth, and nose to after coming in contact with surfaces or objects.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects often.
- Ask your doctor about immunization against the flu and pneumonia.
Make Dietary Changes
A healthful diet can help your body and mind. Your diet can provide fuel to help your body function at its best, and nutrition to help tissue heal and recover. Mood and overall energy will also be better with proper nutritional support.
Cancer itself and some cancer treatments can reduce appetite. It becomes important to make the most of the calories that are eaten. A registered dietitian can help manage challenges that may be found with leukemia and its treatments, and develop an effective meal plan.
If you have not been exercising regularly, check with your doctor to choose a safe exercise program. Exercise has many benefits that may help you withstand the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and cancer treatment including:
- Boosting your energy level
- Improving your immune system
- Boosting your spirits and improving your emotional outlook
You may consider consulting a personal trainer to help you set exercise goals and to safely follow through on initiating an exercise program. While adding exercise, be sure to balance rest and activities to prevent becoming too tired.
Fatigue is the most frequently experienced symptom of leukemia and its treatments. To help avoid getting overtired, prioritize tasks and focus on the most important ones. It is important to allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and preparing meals. If needed, plan time throughout the day for rest.
If fatigue is affecting quality of life, talk to your doctor.
The diagnosis of cancer is a life-defining event that can be difficult to handle. Facing the uncertainty of a serious disease, feeling anxious about how you will feel during treatment, lifestyle changes, and worrying about the impact of both the diagnosis and treatment can be overwhelming. It is important to rely on family, friends, and other people in your life. People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer can often maintain better emotional balance. Other sources of support include:
- Religious community
- Support groups for people with your type of cancer
- Professional support from social workers, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists who are trained to help support cancer patients and their families
Family and caregivers may also need support. Encourage them to seek support groups or counseling geared toward them.
Leukemia found in advances stages can be harder to treat. Some people choose treatments to ease cancer complications or choose to stop treatment completely. Depending on your circumstances, it may be realistic to begin end-of-life planning. Considerations may include:
- Choosing home or hospice care
- Financial decisions
- Advance directives—includes legal issues, like wills, hospital orders for your care, and power of attorney for medical care and finances
- Insurance coverage
If you need guidance, talk to a member of your healthcare team. You can be referred to a trained professional to guide you through the process.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (ALL) management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116388/Acute-lymphoblastic-leukemia-lymphoma-ALL. Updated October 17, 2018. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114798/Acute-myeloid-leukemia-AML. Updated August 14, 2018. December 21, 2018.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)/small lymphocytic leukemia (SLL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114637/Chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia-CLL-Small-lymphocytic-leukemia-SLL. Updated November 21, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Chronic myeloid leukemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115889/Chronic-myeloid-leukemia-CML. Updated January 4, 2018. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Food and nutrition. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/managing-your-cancer/food-and-nutrition. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Treatment & support. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment.html. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD Last Updated: 3/10/2021