Stay Healthy and Energized During Cancer Treatment

Stay Healthy and Energized During Cancer Treatment large

Side effects of cancer treatment can leave you feeling weak, tired and ill. Or maybe not so much. Good nutrition, regular exercise and other wellness practices can go a long way to helping you stay healthy and energized during treatment.

American Cancer Society (ACS) nutrition and exercise guidelines are a great place to start, advises Ann Lensch, MS, BSN, RN, Premier Health breast care coordinator and certified breast care nurse. She also stresses smart infection control to prevent illness.

Know that the type of cancer you have and your treatment will have a bearing on which diet and exercise recommendations are right for you, she cautions. “It is very individualized. Check with your doctor before making any exercise or diet changes.”

Good Nutrition

Stay Healthy and Energized During Cancer Treatment smallACS guidelines promote eating a variety of foods to supply your body with the nutrients it needs when battling cancer. Protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins and minerals will help fuel it for the fight. Eating the right kinds of foods during and after treatment can help you feel better and stay stronger.

But what if treatment side effects get in the way of good nutrition? Some treatments cause nausea and leave you with little or no appetite.

That’s when eating several, small meals spread out through the day can help you get the nutrients you need, Lensch says.

Regular Exercise

Research shows that exercise, such as daily walking, can improve your physical function and reduce the extreme tiredness which often accompanies cancer treatment.

Eating the right kinds of foods during and after treatment can help you feel better and stay stronger.

“Your main goal should be to stay as active as possible and slowly increase your level of activity over time,” Lensch says. “And rest when you need to. Don’t overdo it.”

Infection Control

During cancer treatment, your immunity may be lower than normal. When your body can’t readily fight off infection, you’re at a higher risk of becoming ill.

Your body’s infection-fighting ability will vary both with the type of treatment you receive and at certain points in your treatment. “There are times in treatment where you need to be extra cautious about going out in public,” Lensch advises.

Your doctor will watch your white blood cell count to determine when your immunity drops to a level that raises your risk of illness.

“It’s best to follow your doctor’s advice on when to avoid large crowds and people who have illnesses and colds,” Lensch says.

That old standby — frequent handwashing — is a sound disease prevention tactic for anyone, she adds, and especially when you’re undergoing chemotherapy.

Take Care of Treatment Side Effects

Recording and reporting your treatment side effects to your doctor is another good way to stay as healthy as you can, says Jeanne Ponziani, MSA, RN, NE-BC, Director of Clinical Operations at Miami Valley Hospital South. “Be very aware of yourself and what’s normal for you. Call your doctor so you don’t let side effects get too extreme before they’re taken care of.” For instance, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration if you don’t deal with them quickly.

She also emphasizes paying as much attention to your mental health as your physical health. Ponziani recommends having a good support system of family and friends to rely on and talk with. She also suggests connecting with a support group. Many are available, she says.

Oncology Rehabilitation at Premier Health

Cancer survivors can find more help in staying healthy through Oncology Rehabilitation Services at Miami Valley Hospital North .

“Oncology Rehabilitation is a good program for patients who have had treatment and may be having difficulty getting back to a new normal,” Lensch explains. Oncology Rehab teaches ways to conserve energy and offers exercise programs that help patients regain mobility, strength, range of motion, balance and endurance.

The Well-Being Center at Miami Valley Hospital North  also offers a variety of aerobic exercise, core fitness, Pilates, relaxation and yoga classes open to anyone with their physician’s approval.

Small Steps: Add Music to Your Meals.
If your appetite is lagging, try playing your favorite music during mealtimes to tempt your taste buds.