What Everyday Changes Are Necessary During Cancer Treatment?
Patients may find it difficult to adapt to their new routine, but some adjustments will have to be made in order to ensure things go more smoothly
Everyday life will naturally change during treatment due to doctor’s appointments, procedures and possible side effects. However, that does not mean that regular activities have to stop altogether. Learn how to integrate the cancer treatment to your schedule and have more quality of life.
Keep a normal routine with just a few adjustments
First, ask the doctor if there are any physical restrictions. If not, that is, if the patient’s clinical condition is good in general, there’s no need to stop working, taking classes, meeting with friends and family, and exercising. The only thing to keep in mind is that the treatment should be a priority, and everything else should work around it. Here are some solutions for specific situations:1
Work - Some people are reserved about their personal problems at work and that’s ok, but it might be a good idea to let employers and co-workers know so they can help. There will be times of absence over doctor’s appointments, treatment sessions or indisposition due to side effects. As a result, it’s important to at least talk to HR so they can be flexible about working hours, maybe reducing them and/or allowing remote work.1
Physical exercises - Not only should patients continue exercising as usual, but also start practicing an activity in case they don’t already. Invite a friend or family member to do something together as encouragement. Physical exercise reduces cancer-related fatigue, increases cardiopulmonary function, muscle strength and flexibility, and can help lessen the burden in cases of depression and anxiety. Don’t forget to ask the doctor if there are any activities that wouldn’t be recommended.2
Social activities - Some people wish to be alone and keep their distance from others after being diagnosed. Nevertheless, it’s important to seek the help of a psychotherapist and take part on online support groups for people with cancer to overcome this isolation need. Try your best to keep doing activities that bring you joy and seeing yourself as someone capable of performing chores and doing fun things.1
Why is it necessary to change some habits during cancer treatment?
As much as fun and physical activities are worth keeping during cancer treatment, others should be reassessed, as they can worsen side effects and even increase the risks of developing other problems:3
Drinking alcohol - Experts have not been able to determine a safe level of alcohol consumption yet, so just avoid it in general. Alcoholic beverages can worsen chemotherapy and radiotherapy’s side effects, such as having a dry/sore mouth, nausea and diarrhea.3,4
Smoking - Tobacco cigarettes contain about 4,720 toxic substances, and at least 70 of those are carcinogenic.5 Smoking accounts for 90% of lung cancer cases and 30% of others, such as mouth, laryngeal, pharyngeal (throat), esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, liver, kidney, bladder, cervical and leukemia.5 Plus, if surgery is needed, going three to four weeks without smoking before the procedure reduces the risk of pulmonary complications by 30% to 50%.6,7
Having an unhealthy diet - Patients need to make dietary changes due to the disease’s metabolic activity, treatments and their side effects, which can cause malnutrition and weight loss. A healthy and well-nourished body will recover much faster than the alternative. During the treatment, opt for natural food, including a lot of fruit and vegetables, especially those rich in protein and fiber, and avoid sugary, fatty and highly-industrialized items.3
Check with your healthcare providers what you can keep doing, what you should stop doing, and any special measures you should take during treatment and recovery.
1 - Cancer Institute of the State of São Paulo (“Instituto do Câncer do Estado de São Paulo”). Patient space/FAQ. Available at: http://www.icesp.org.br/espaco-do-paciente/perguntas-frequentes. Access on: October/2019.
2 - Cancer Institute of the State of São Paulo (“Instituto do Câncer do Estado de São Paulo”). Body in motion – physical exercise is an ally in the cancer patient rehabilitation (“Corpo em movimento – exercício físico é aliado na reabilitação de pacientes com câncer”). Available at: http://www.icesp.org.br/images/RevistaDez.pdf. Access on: October/2019.
3 - INCA: José Alencar Gomes da Silva National Cancer Institute (“Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva”). Healthy lifestyle during and after cancer treatment/Healthy diet (“Estilo de vida saudável durante e após o tratamento do câncer/Alimentação saudável”). Available at: https://www.inca.gov.br/sites/ufu.sti.inca.local/files//media/document//estilo-de-vida-saudavel-durante-e-apos-o-tratamento-de-cancer-2017.pdf. Access on: October/2019.
4 - National Cancer institute. Nutrition in Cancer Care. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/appetite-loss/nutrition-pdq. Access on: October/2019.
5 - Brazilian Cancer Foundation. Smoking. Available at: https://www.cancer.org.br/sobre-o-cancer/prevencao/tabagismo/. Access on: January/2020.
6 - World Health Organization. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic. Available at: https://www.who.int/tobacco/mpower/mpower_report_full_2008.pdf. Access on: October/2019.
7 - Nestlé Health Science. Positive Impact Program (“Programa Impacto Positivo”). Access on: October/2019.
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