Skip to main content
Banner: Health blog - Living with cancer: lifestyle changes, nutrition and exercise

Living with cancer: lifestyle changes, nutrition and exercise

Better health is good for a lot of reasons. It can even decrease the chance of cancer returning.


By Carol Ann Petersen
May 25, 2018

      share on LinkedIn


After being told they have cancer, many people think about making changes to improve their health. Better health can decrease the chance of cancer returning. But it can also be good for a whole bunch of reasons. There are many ways to improve health. Here are some areas to consider.

Nutrition: what foods to eat

What you should eat varies by cancer type and stage. It also varies with the kind of treatment you’re receiving. Diet may need to be adjusted throughout treatment based on how you’re feeling. Guidelines during and after treatment depend on many factors. No single foods or diet have been proven to prevent or cure cancer. But certain diet and activity will support your health.

Here’s what a registered dietician has to say about cancer nutrition:

 

This cancer nutrition video includes advice on:

  • Eating tips for common side effects that occur during cancer treatment
  • Sugar, soy, organic food and dietary supplements
  • Diet recommendations to help prevent cancer from coming back

The benefits of good nutrition during cancer treatment include:

  • Preservation of lean body mass (muscle)
  • A well-supported immune system
  • Better quality of life
  • The ability to tolerate your full treatment as prescribed

Frauenshuh Cancer Center in St. Louis Park, Minn., hosts nutrition classes for people living with cancer. Family members, caregivers and friends are invited to attend. See upcoming classes.

Exercising with cancer

Many studies suggest staying active during cancer treatment can have a positive effect on treatment. Exercise improves muscle strength, flexibility, quality of life, fatigue and mental outlook. But it’s important to talk with your doctor before you start working out. Here are a few activities to consider:

  • Endurance activities: walking, swimming, biking, hiking, dancing
  • Strengthening activities: weight-lifting, resistance bands
  • Stretching activities: yoga, tai chi

Staying positive: emotional well-being

Cancer can be an emotional experience. It’s important to take care of all parts of your health – both mind and body. You’ll need emotional support alongside medical support. Social workers, psychotherapists and spiritual leaders can help you, your family and caregiver learn how to address:

  • The range and intensity of emotional reactions to cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship
  • Cancer-related anxiety or depression
  • Side effects of treatment
  • Cancer’s impact on relationships
  • Meaning and spirituality
  • Fatigue and difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling more in control – through guided imagery, relaxation or self-hypnosis

Relaxation, massage and acupuncture

At the cancer care centers I work with, many people report that integrative therapies have helped them. They feel better physically, emotionally and spiritually. And that has made their quality of life better. Integrative therapies, such as massage, healing touch and acupuncture complement cancer treatment.

People who receive integrative therapies are able to:

  • Relax
  • Focus on healing and positive outcomes
  • Feel less fatigued
  • Experience relief from pain, anxiety or nausea
  • Experience a sense of control
  • Find harmony and balance during a stressful time

Music therapy and guided imagery

Music therapy comes in all shapes and sizes. It could be singing a song or listening to music. Or it could be more advanced. Some patients sign or even write music with music therapists at the cancer centers I work with. Music therapists also can design individualized relaxation or imagery exercises. This can help patients relax before or after treatments and procedures.

Music can help treat the emotional ups and downs associated with illness. And it can decrease symptoms, while allowing you to share how you’re feeling. Here are more things that music can do:

  • Improve pain management
  • Promote relaxation
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Help express emotions
  • Improve quality of life
  • Create a healing environment
  • Provide a focus on healing images to enhance treatment
  • Manage stress
  • Create a more positive and enjoyable treatment experience
  • Help you manage energy and fatigue
  • Brighten your day and lift your spirits

Contact your cancer center to learn if they offer any of these services. Or talk with a cancer care doctor at Park Nicollet, Regions Hospital or HealthPartners to learn more.

About Carol Ann Petersen, MSW, LICSW, MAHS

Carol Ann Petersen leads patient support and education at Park Nicollet Frauenshuh Cancer Center, in addition to being a psychotherapist. She works with patients, their caregivers and family members. In her free time she enjoys bicycling, gardening and travel.

Back to top