Lifestyle Changes that Help Keep Cancer at Bay

Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 8:47am
Assistant Member, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Science

After completing treatment, many cancer survivors wonder: what can I do to help prevent my cancer from recurring? If you are in the middle of treatment, you may wonder if there is anything you can do to affect the success of your treatment, or to make treatment a bit easier.

In 2012, the American Cancer Society convened a panel of experts to discuss how certain habits can have an impact on cancer prognosis. Here are a few of their key recommendations:

1.     Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is often associated with poorer outcomes for several kinds of cancer, including breast, prostate, colon, ovarian and many others. Also, chemotherapy and hormonal treatments for cancer can often lead to weight gain. Keeping your weight in a healthy range supports your overall health and can lower your risk of a new cancer diagnosis or recurrence.

2.     Get moving! Many studies show physical activity is associated with lower risk of cancer recurrence and improved long-term survival rates. Because many cancer survivors go on to live long lives, exercise also helps you protect yourself in the long run from your risk of other chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes. Exercise can help you reduce fatigue and anxiety, which are very common during and sometimes after certain cancer treatments. Plus, it builds strength and lean muscle mass.  

Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to boring! Take your kids or grandkids to the park, take a brisk walk around the mall with a good friend or go for a casual bike ride. It’s important for cancer survivors to include some strength training exercises and aim for at least 150 minutes per week. Be sure to talk to your doctor about starting an exercise routine that works best for your health needs and cancer treatment program.

3.     Eating right: Many population-based studies have demonstrated that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in meat, especially red meat and processed meats, is associated with a lower risk of cancer recurrence and better overall survival. The benefits of a healthy diet have been shown for breast, prostate and colorectal cancer survivors. A good diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, build strong muscles and prevent loss of bone density. Visit our healthy eating strategies page for more information and tips.

4.     To supplement or not to supplement? A lot of patients wonder if there are vitamin supplements they should take to aid in their treatment or to reduce their chances of a recurrence. Recent studies have shown that there is definitely not a link between taking supplements and improved health outcomes. In fact, sometimes supplement use is associated with poorer outcomes. Your best bet is to eat a healthy, varied diet that provides the vitamins and nutrients you need.

At Roswell Park, we have established the Support For Life After Treatment Clinic so that we can be here for you or your loved one at any stage of your cancer treatment and after treatment is completed. Our team includes psychologists, social workers, and rehabilitative and nutritional experts.

We welcome you to come meet with us, so that we can review what your treatment entailed, evaluate your individual post-treatment needs, and begin to help you through this next phase in your life after cancer.

For more information, email the Support For Life After Treatment Clinic at supportforlife@roswellpark.org or call 716-845- 3526.