HEALTH

Five ways to stay healthy during cancer treatment

Focusing on your physical and mental well-being is an important way to deal with the uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis

Physical activity is linked to increased life expectancy.
Physical activity is linked to increased life expectancy.GETTY

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy. Dealing with the uncertainty of what the future may hold is difficult but there are things you can do to help you stay positive. Focusing on staying healthy, for instance, is an important way to maintain your mental health and fight against cancer.

How can this be done? An expert oncologist, who has treated thousands of cancer patients over the course of his career, says staying healthy comes down to five main points. Let’s explore each one of them:

1. Keep working at your job if possible

Having a sense of direction is vital to your health. Keeping yourself busy at work, by volunteering or running a household, provides a sense of normality and purpose that stops your mind from focusing too much on your diagnosis. It is also a good way to remain social and to gain perspective on your treatment. 

While not all cancer patients are able to work during treatment, you should try to make an effort on the days you feel well. Volunteering at your church, synagogue, school or at an organization you care about will help you to mingle with others and stay socially active.

2. Maintain a healthy diet

A healthy diet can do wonders for cancer patients. Eating the right kind of food during and after cancer treatment can help you feel better and stay stronger. A good diet helps you to maintain a healthy body weight and provides you with the essential nutrients you need to support the success of your cancer treatment.

A sense of humor can be very helpful during cancer treatment

Protein, for instance, helps to repair tissue and keep your immune system healthy. Fish, beans and lentils, eggs, skinless chicken breast, lean beef, nuts and yogurt are all good sources of protein. The amount of protein you need should be based on you body weight and condition.

Eating more plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, supports your health by blocking the damage from harmful free radicals. These same foods can nourish the body, helping you to heal from various cancer treatments.

Staying hydrated is also important as cancer patients may get malnourished and dehydrated if they experience diarrhea or vomiting. Constipation is another issue that additional fluids can help with. Drinking at least eight 250 milliliter glasses of water each day should help you stay hydrated. There are however, some conditions that require fluid restriction. If this is the case, you should follow the advice of your healthcare provider.

3. Exercise

The days of oncologists telling you to take it easy and rest during cancer treatment are long gone. Now, thanks to significant research, a cancer patient will most likely be told to be active.

A healthy diet provides  essential nutrients to support the success of your cancer treatment

Many studies have shown that regular physical activity is linked to increased life expectancy after a cancer diagnosis, often by decreasing the risk of cancer recurrence. It’s well known that physical activity is good for a person’s well-being and their long-term health.

Physical activity has shown positive effects on body composition, physical fitness, quality of life, anxiety and self-esteem. Taking long walks, swimming, cycling or any kind of movement gets your circulation going, keeps your cardiovascular function and immune system healthy and gives you a sense that you are in control of your medical situation.

4. Protect yourself from infections

Having cancer weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infections. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can make the situation worse by weakening your immunity even more and making you feel tired and weak.

To help protect your immune system, follow these steps to lower your risk of developing an infection:

  • Wash your hands often and ask your family, visitors, and healthcare providers to wash their hands as well.
  • Ask your oncologist about getting a flu shot and encourage your family and friends to get one too. Ask your doctor if you need a pneumococcal shot.
  • Take a shower or bath every day with warm water and mild soap.
  • Brush your teeth several times a day with a soft toothbrush.
  • Protect yourself from cuts; be very careful when using sharp items and wear gloves when gardening or cleaning.
  • If you get a small cut, wash it thoroughly, put antibiotic cream on it, and cover it with a bandage.
  • Call you doctor right away if you notice any signs of an infection, especially a fever.

5. Have a sense of humor

There is a growing body of research supporting the theory that laughter may have therapeutic value. The use of humor in medicine is not necessarily new but its impact on health and healing is gaining more recognition.

It may seem strange to find humor when facing a serious issue such as cancer but being able to laugh can be very helpful.

Laughter can help you feel better about yourself and the world around you. It can also provide physical benefits. Laughter boosts the immune system, enhances oxygen intake, stimulates the heart and lungs, relaxes muscles, triggers the release of endorphins, relieves pain, lowers blood pressure and improves mental function.

It can also improve your attitude, reduce stress, help you to relax, improve sleep and enhance your quality of life.

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical contributor for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Pinterest, SamadiMD.com, davidsamadiwiki, davidsamadibio and Facebook.

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