Lifestyle changes can be helpful in a variety of important ways:
Smoking is a known risk factor for many cancers. Although you may have already been diagnosed with cancer, it’s not too late to stop smoking. When you quit smoking, you reduce your risk of its many associated medical complications, which should improve your chances of withstanding the physical stresses of cancer and treatment. Also, since the immune system of smokers is generally less effective than non-smokers, by quitting you may be adding your immune system’s ability to join in the battle against cancer.
Ask your doctor about programs to help you stop smoking, such as group support, hypnosis, and alternative nicotine delivery systems.
To decrease your risk of infection, avoid exposure to bacteria and viruses:
Eating a healthful diet may help you avoid other medical conditions linked to poor nutrition. Because cancer itself and some cancer treatment may have a dulling effect on your appetite, it’s important that you make the most of the calories you do take in. Strongly consider consulting a registered dietitian (RD) to help you learn more about the best kinds of foods for you to eat, and how to eat other, less healthful foods in moderation.
If you have not been exercising regularly, check with your doctor to determine a safe exercise program under your current circumstances. Exercise has many benefits that may help you withstand the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and cancer treatment:
You may consider consulting a personal trainer to help you set exercise goals, and to safely follow through on initiating an exercise program.
While incorporating exercise, be sure to balance rest and activities to prevent becoming too tired.
The treatments for cancer can add to the fatigue you already feel from fighting cancer. In fact, fatigue is the most frequently experienced symptom of cancer and cancer treatments. The fatigue you feel can range from "just feeling tired" to complete and utter exhaustion. Wherever in this range you fall, you may find your fatigue quite distressing and affecting your quality of life.
It is important to allow your body time to rest. This will help your body have the strength to heal itself. Studies have shown a relationship between fatigue and an increased morbidity of cancer and cancer treatments as a result of fatigue's adverse effect on appetite, diminished quality of life, and loss of hope.
To help you avoid getting overtired, try not to do too much. Prioritize the things you need to do, and focus on the most important ones. Also, allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and preparing meals. Plan times throughout the day when you can rest. And don't forget...get a good nights rest.
The diagnosis of cancer is life-defining event that is difficult to handle for anyone. Facing the uncertainty of a serious disease, feeling anxious about how you will feel during treatment, and worrying about the impact of both the diagnosis and treatment on your plans and your family and friends, can take a devastating toll that no one should have to tackle on their own. Give yourself permission to call on any helpful resources, including the following:
People who allow themselves to seek support while they are recovering from cancer can often maintain better emotional equilibrium, which will help them face the challenges of cancer and its treatment.
It’s important that you don’t make major lifestyle changes without consulting your doctor, and verifying that you are proceeding safely. You are already being physically and emotionally challenged by the presence of cancer and the rigors of treatment. You and your doctor need to work together to make wise lifestyle choices and implement them in the healthiest way possible. Your doctor can provide referrals to an RD, personal trainer, therapist, and support group.
Cecil Textbook of Medicine. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company; 2002.
Conn’s Current Therapy, 54th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company; 2002.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD Last Updated: 12/20/2014