• Aritri Dutta

Lifestyle Changes for Cancer Survivorship

The end of cancer treatment is often a time to rejoice for cancer survivors.

The thought that you have completed treatment successfully, is a joy in its own sense. After all of the emotionally and physically draining chemotherapy and tests, you can now, finally, look forward to a life that you plan to live to its fullest.

However, the first couple of months after treatment is often a time of change. Survivors call this stage the “adjustment to a new normal”.

During this period, one of the hardest things to cope with is the constant fear of cancer recurrence (or second cancer). Studies showed that some cancers may reoccur in the first two years or so after treatment, which implies that you need to observe your body for any changes that might be a concern.

As your body is coping with the changes after treatment, you may develop some health issues which in turn may affect the prognosis of cancer.

Common health issues during the remission period include obesity(associated with poor survival in breast, endometrial, prostate, pancreatic, colorectal, ovarian, and some hematologic malignancies) and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). According to a recent article published in the European Heart Journal, 1 in 10 cancer patients die due to poor cardiovascular health. Patients with breast, prostate, endometrial, or thyroid cancer are at a high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases during their cancer journey. Also, a study in JAMA Oncology showed that cancer increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D) within the first two years after diagnosis and the risk increases throughout the follow-up period.

There is increasing evidence linking lifestyle factors with effective cancer prognosis. So what changes should you incorporate into your life after cancer treatment?


Being overweight and obesity are clearly associated with increased risk of developing cancers. Your diet should focus on maintaining a healthy body weight. The dietary guidelines emphasize plant-based eating for cancer survivors as these can reduce the overall risk of cancers.

Survivors are advised to include a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat diary products in their diet. Red meat and other processed meat should be strictly avoided due to their low nutrition value. Moreover patients are advised to practice mindful eating as rushing through meals would result in consuming more quantity too quickly.

Physical fitness

Apart from maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise improves immunity and limits obesity. Physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors recommend gradually increasing the amount of exercise day-by-day so that you can build your strength and endurance over time. One can start with low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, dancing or yoga that burn calories without putting much stress on your body. Overtime, you can switch to vigorous exercises like swimming, aerobics, jumping ropes, running, playing sports like football, basketball, etc.

Exercises shows benefits in emotional well-being as well. It improves mood, boosts self-confidence and reduces cancer-related fatigue.


Research proves that smoking and alcohol consumption in survivors is linked to an increased risk of chronic health issues which in turn affects cancer recurrence. Quitting smoking is the strongest predictor for survival in patients.

For patients who cannot voluntarily quit smoking, effective treatment methods are recommended. Pharmacologic treatments along with supportive and cognitive behavioral therapies are provided for cancer patients or survivors to quit smoking.

Stress management

Lifestyle modification for cancer survivors promotes mental health and psychological well-being. You should avoid stress, overthinking, frustration etc, as these emotions can have a negative impact on cancer prognosis. Practicing relaxation techniques such as guided meditation, yoga etc may help. Many people prefer to even write their thoughts down and journal.

Thus, lifestyle modifications along with a positive attitude and sustained efforts are required to achieve your goals. Choose to live your life as fully as possible and maintain a healthy relationship with your loved ones. At the end of the day, be happy :)



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