Cancer Survivorship

Nutrition and Physical Activity

It is important for people with cancer to take care of themselves. Taking care of yourself includes eating well and staying as active as you can.

You need enough calories to maintain a good weight. You also need enough protein to keep up your strength. Eating well may help you feel better and have more energy.

Sometimes, especially during or soon after treatment, you may not feel like eating. You may be uncomfortable or tired. You may find that foods do not taste as good as they used to. In addition, the side effects of treatment (such as poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, or mouth sores) can be a problem. The doctor, dietitian, or other health care provider can suggest ways to eat well.

Many people find they feel better when they stay active. Walking, yoga, swimming, and other activities can keep you strong and increase your energy. Exercise may reduce nausea and pain and make treatment easier to handle. It also can help relieve stress. Whatever physical activity you choose, be sure to talk to your doctor before you start. Also, if your activity causes you pain or other problems, be sure to let your doctor or nurse know about it.

Follow-up Care

Advances in early detection and treatment mean that many people with cancer are cured. But doctors can never be certain that the cancer will not come back. Undetected cancer cells can remain in the body after treatment. Although the cancer seems to be completely removed or destroyed, it can return. Doctors call this a recurrence.

To find out whether the cancer has returned, your doctor may do a physical exam and order lab tests, x-rays, and other tests. If you have a recurrence, you and your doctor will decide on new treatment goals and a new treatment plan.

During follow-up exams, the doctor also checks for other problems, such as side effects from cancer therapy that can arise long after treatment. Checkups help ensure that changes in health are noted and treated if needed. Between scheduled visits, you should contact the doctor if any health problems occur.

Sources of Support

Living with a serious disease such as cancer is not easy. You may worry about caring for your family, keeping your job, or continuing daily activities. Concerns about treatments and managing side effects, hospital stays, and medical bills are also common. Doctors, nurses, and other members of the health care team can answer questions about treatment, working, or other activities. Often, a social worker can suggest resources for financial aid, transportation, home care, or emotional support. Meeting with a social worker, counselor, or member of the clergy can be helpful if you want to talk about your feelings or concerns.

Friends and relatives can be very supportive. Also, many people find it helps to talk with others who have cancer. People with cancer often get together in support groups. In these groups, patients or their family members meet with other patients or their families to share what they have learned about coping with the disease and the effects of treatment. Groups may offer support in person, over the telephone, or on the Internet. It is important to keep in mind, however, that everyone is different. Ways that one person deals with cancer may not be right for another. You may want to ask a member of your health care team about advice from other cancer patients.

Roswell Park’s Cancer Information Specialists at 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) can help you locate local programs, services, and resources.  If you are looking services outside this area, you can contact the National Cancer Institute’s Information Specialists at 1-800-4-CANCER and at LiveHelp