Five Ways to Improve Prognosis and Decrease Cancer Recurrence
When you’re diagnosed with cancer there’s a whole host of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that you go through. And the reason – simply put – is that the doctor just informed you that you’re sick. You’ve become a patient. Whether or not you felt good, bad, or just blah beforehand, everything’s changed. This news from your doctor has pushed your health into a priority position in your life.
The #1 Goal
Aside from anything else, you want to get better – you want to beat cancer. That’s the goal. The treatment plan you put together with your Oncologist is formulated to do just that. But what if there’s more that you can do? Is it possible to be proactive in this fight – to make some changes and improve your ability to reach your goal? It is.
Because research has shown that being healthy helps cancer patients with two important things:
- a better prognosis
- decreased risk of recurrence
I think these are pretty powerful reasons to try and get healthy.
Now research is ongoing and for some cancers there are fewer studies than for others, but the proof is there. The healthy factors listed below have been studied and support changes that positively affect patients with breast, esophageal, colon, kidney, gallbladder, pancreas, uterine, cervical, ovarian cancers …and the list goes on.
So let’s review The Five Health Factors.
Do I need to say more?
It’s hard, it’s an addiction, but you’re worth so much more. There are many supports available to help you quit including prescriptions, patches and counselling. Please give it a try.
Ouch, touchy subject, but we gotta go there. Studies show that being overweight and obese:
- increases your risk for a number of cancers
- increased your risk for the more aggressive forms of cancers
- increases the recurrence rate for a number of cancers
Nobody’s saying we have to be perfect but more weight equates to more cancer risk. So if you lose a little weight, your odds improve.
I know you might think that trying to keep your weight in check is kinda the same as exercise but…no. Exercise can really, really, help with weight control but research, and lots of it, shows that exercise, even if you are overweight, decreases your risk of some forms of cancers.
Studies also support, with lots of research for breast cancer, that patients who are physically active have a better prognosis and fewer recurrences. And remember, exercise helps with many cancer treatment side effects so there’s an added benefit with this healthy factor.
We know that cutting out specific types of food can decrease your risk of some forms of cancer. And adding certain foods can be beneficial as well. Some foods are actually being labeled as having cancer prevention qualities because of the micronutrients they contain The research in the area of diet and cancer is huge but there’s still uncertainty in some of the areas that are being studied. It is recommended that cancer patients eat a healthy, generally plant based and whole grain style diet for improved prognosis.
What we know for sure is that fruit and veggies are good. Whole foods are better than processed, and alcohol should be limited or avoided.
When you’re going through treatment it can be hard to get any food into your system and it may not be the time to dive deep on this factor. So use your best judgment and start looking at food choices when you’re appetite is getting back to normal.
- Stay Connected
Healthy isn’t just the body – it’s also your mind. Your mental health – dare I say – is more important to work on than your physical health.
Because your mind controls your body. If you don’t feel like exercising, your mind is what stops you. There is no way you’re getting your body to move if your mind doesn’t say it’s ok.
So if you feel alone, depressed, sad, anxious – any and all of the feelings you can have – it’s incredibly hard to make good choices for yourself. So don’t cut yourself off from those that can help during this time. If you have support, friends, family, a Facebook support group, a contact on Facetime or the phone, stay connected. Healthy Factor #5 will make factors #1 through 4 much easier when you have a little lift in your spirits from those who care and love you.
These five Healthy Factors are ways you can take charge, be proactive, and not only improve your lifestyle but help you reach your #1 goal.
* I want to mention that the idea for this blog came from a colleague of mine, Dr. Mhairi Morris. As a Registered Kinesiologist who works as a Cancer Exercise Professional, I need to ensure that my education and knowledge allow to me to do what I love to do – namely work with cancer patients. Mhairi is a Biochemist and Cancer Researcher in the UK. She provides education to healthcare professionals on the science of cancer. I believe that you need to understand the disease to provide the best treatment to patients. Thanks for the inspiration Mhairi.
ACSM: ACSM’s Guide to Exercise and Cancer Survivorship