More than 15.5 million Americans are cancer survivors — including 3.6 million women treated for breast cancer and 1.3 million for gynecological cancers; 3.3 million men treated for prostate cancer; 1.5 million folks treated for colorectal cancer; and another 1.2 million for melanoma. With advances in detection and treatment, that number is growing every year. In fact, by 2026, it’s projected that the number will increase by 31 percent, to 20.3 million folks. We are happy if you or a loved one is fortunate enough to count yourself as a cancer survivor; now it’s time to make a commitment to staying healthy and cancer-free.
Extensive studies reveal that making smart lifestyle choices can help survivors regain their health and prevent recurrence. According to the American Cancer Society, there are great benefits for longevity and quality of life if cancer survivors adopt healthful nutrition, regular exercise and weight management.
Nutrition and Weight Management
It’s known that being overweight or obese increases the risk for developing various cancers, including breast cancer in postmenopausal women, and cancers of the colon, rectum, endometrium, esophagus, pancreas and kidney — and likely the gallbladder and even the cervix, liver and ovary, plus multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and aggressive prostate cancer. Ever more research indicates that being overweight or obese also increases the risk of recurrence.
First step: As a survivor, a smart first step is to ask your oncologist for a referral to a registered dietician, preferably one who is also a CSO, or certified specialist in oncology. That way you can establish a dietary plan that will be sure to give you the nutritional support you need to overcome treatment-related side effects and cancer-related changes to your body. A healthful nutritional plan also can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
The plan: The basic ACS guidelines for a post-cancer nutritional regimen are what we advocate for everyone: Dodge the Five Food Felons; opt for at least 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables daily — more is better; choose whole grains; enjoy fish and poultry (no red or processed meats); choose mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, such as olive and walnut oil; and skip full-fat dairy.
Weight management: If you have lost weight and muscle mass during cancer treatment, work with a nutritionist to determine how to gain back good-for you weight that increases your strength and relieves fatigue without increasing inflammation. Remember, a calorie is NOT a calorie: Stick with the nutritional guidelines above to lower inflammation, promote muscle tone, build strength and protect your heart and other organs from damage. For weight loss, go slow and steady by making lifelong changes in your eating and activity habits, not by starving yourself or stressing your body with faddish diet plans. Aim for a 5 percent total body mass loss over three or more months.
There is solid research showing that physical activity during recovery from cancer-related treatment helps manage both physical and emotional stresses, and ever more studies show the benefits for long-term survival and prevention of recurrence. According to a study in the ACS journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, “at least 20 prospective observational studies have shown that physically active [breast, colorectal, prostate and ovarian] cancer survivors have a lower risk of cancer recurrences and improved survival compared with those who are inactive.”
Your move: Get at least 150 minutes of extra physical activity (walking, aerobics, swimming, yoga, cycling) a week; and include 20-30 minutes of strength training, twice a week.
Putting it all together: Look for a local support group for cancer survivors. Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute has groups of 12-16 folks for each type of cancer. They come together for help with stress management, physical activity, cooking and shopping, and toxin withdrawal. The Wellness Institute is even planning to offer such classes via secure video conferencing for shared medical appointments! Making these smart lifestyle choices are that important for your recovery.
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Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com. © 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc
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