By Stacy Simon
With more than 15.5 million cancer survivors alive today in the US, chances are that you or someone you know has faced cancer.
Each June, cancer survivors celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day, sponsored by the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation. The event, which includes hundreds of life-affirming gatherings across the US, is a time to celebrate life – and if you’re a cancer survivor, it’s also a good time to reflect on what you could be doing to be even healthier.
Survivorship: During and After Treatment
Whether you’re still in treatment or long since finished, be sure you’re doing everything you can to safeguard your health.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
• Avoid weight gain during cancer treatment, whether you are at a healthy weight or overweight.
• If you’re overweight or obese, talk to your health care provider about safely losing weight after you recover from treatment.
- Be physically active.
• Studies show that exercise is safe during cancer treatment, and can improve many aspects of health, including muscle strength, balance, fatigue, and depression.
• Physical activity after diagnosis is linked to living longer and a reduced risk of cancer returning among people living with breast, colorectal, prostate, and ovarian cancer – among other forms of the disease.
- Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
• The most health benefits are associated with a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and fish, and low in refined grains, red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) and processed meat (hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats), desserts, high-fat dairy products, and fried foods.
• Studies show that taking vitamins, herbs, and other nutritional supplements often do not help cancer patients live longer, and may even shorten life. Before taking any supplement, discuss it with your healthcare provider.
- Get recommended cancer screenings.
• Cancer survivors should go to all the follow-up visits their cancer care team recommends, to make sure cancer hasn’t come back.
• Survivors can also get other cancers. They should follow the same testing schedule for their age and gender as the general population.
- Create a survivorship care plan.
• Ask your cancer care team to give you a thorough record of the treatments you had and any follow-up they recommend.
• Understand which provider – oncologist, primary care doctor, or other specialist – should be in charge of cancer-related and other medical care. If you don’t know, ask.
- Take care of your emotional health.
• Spend time with family and friends, and doing things you like.
• Focus on your spiritual side, whether that means participating in organized religion, communing with nature, meditating, creating art, or whatever speaks to you.
• Join a support group in your local area or online (such as Cancer Survivors Network) or speak to a mental health care professional.
Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff (American Cancer Society)