Everything You Need to Know as a Cancer Survivor

Earlier this month you read an amazing story of survival and celebrated with us in Scot’s cancer journey. And there are many more member stories like his we hope to one day tell.

 

Advances in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care mean more Americans than ever are surviving cancer. Today more than 15.5 million Americans are alive despite a cancer diagnosis.

 

As we celebrate, even still, surviving a cancer diagnosis does not mean the journey is complete. Survivors may experience ongoing challenges for many years after treatment has stopped. Emotional, physical, and financial struggles can continue for many years as they may have difficulty finding health or life insurance coverage, employment may be tough to secure, and all of this could lead to financial hardships.

 

Emotionally, survivors may always harbor the fear that the cancer could come back at any moment. A combination of these challenges may cause personal relationships to become strained, furthering the psychological isolation an individual may feel.

 

We want to give you information to help as you or a loved one faces the next step in the journey.

 

Survivor Resources

 

The Institute of Medicine encourages patients and their medical providers to complete a survivorship care plan such as this one developed by OncoLink. To ensure the best possible care of survivors, this type of plan is a necessity.

 

Doctor consultation

 

Talk to your provider about a plan to summarize prevention and treatment of potential late effects, recommendations for follow-up visits, legal rights related to employment and insurance, available psychological and financial services, and tips for living a healthy lifestyle to prevent recurrent or new cancers.

 

The American Cancer Society has also put together a handout to help you on your survivorship journey. In it, you will find tips and resources to help you and your health care provider determine the best plan for your health future.

 

Survivor Recommendations

 

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network has published guidelines for preventive health in survivors. These guidelines include:

 

  • Survivors are encouraged to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle with attention to physical activity, healthy dietary habits, and weight management
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight: a normal body mass index (BMI)
  • Engage in physical activity regularly (preferably daily)

    • Strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, spread out over the course of the week
    • Strive to participate in strength or resistance training at least twice a week
    • Avoid prolonged sedentary behavior
  • Maintain a healthy diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and low in sugars and fats

    • Limit red meat and avoid processed meat
    • Minimize alcohol intake
    • Avoid tobacco products
  • Practice sun safety using sunscreen and physical barriers whenever possible
  • Follow up with your primary care physician (PCP) regularly
  • Routine use of dietary supplements is not recommended for the purpose of cancer control. Nutrients should be obtained from food sources rather than relying on dietary supplements.
  • Work with your PCP to set incremental goals for diet, physical activity, and weight management

 

These recommendations are important because healthy lifestyles are associated with better quality of life and overall health. Additionally, a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of recurrence and death in some cancers.

 

Medi-Share members who are cancer survivors are encouraged to meet with our Certified Health Coaches to actively implement these recommendations.

 

Prevention

 

For families that may be concerned about a genetic predisposition to cancer, the good news, according to the National Cancer Institute, is inherited genetic mutations only account for about 5-10% of all cancers.

 

While some cancers appear to “run in the family,” they are actually related to the lifestyle or environment a family shares. That means there is much we can do to prevent cancer simply through our lifestyle choices.

 

God created the human body to be self-healing, providing the cells all the features needed to defend themselves against damage to their DNA. This is true only if the cells are supplied with all the nutrients necessary to defend themselves including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.

 

Much of the research surrounding the optimal diet for cancer prevention has been done on human epidemiological or population studies. These have shown that the populations with the lowest rates of cancer consume the highest amounts of unprocessed plant foods including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

 

Fruits and vegetables

 

Dr. Dean Ornish’s research has shown that this type of diet has the power to turn on health-promoting genes, as well as turn off disease-promoting genes. This follows the research of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and many others over the past 60+ years, demonstrating the association between lifestyle, particularly diet, and cancer.

 

This means the particular diet we choose to eat has the power to overcome genetic predisposition for certain diseases. 

 

We are continuing to learn about the many compounds in plant foods and the synergistic ways they work in their whole, natural form to prevent diseases in the human body. Some of the most powerful compounds are found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, collards, arugula, watercress, and cabbage.

 

These phytochemicals include isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol which have been shown to neutralize potential carcinogens and reduce estrogen activity, decreasing breast cancer risk.

 

For more information about disease-preventing nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle behaviors, visit our Wellness Library for in-depth articles.

 

What better way to encourage those who have survived cancer than to support them with a diet and lifestyle that has the power to prevent a diagnosis!

 

*This information does not replace individualized medical care from your doctor. Consult your physician before making dietary changes.  

 

If you are a survivor, or are currently facing a diagnosis, connect with others who know what you're going through in our Medi-Share app (must be a Medi-Share member to log into the app).

 

Download The Medi-Share App

 

Resources:

American Cancer Society. (2018). Information and Resources about Cancer. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://www.cancer.org/

 

Campbell, T. C. (2018, February 09). 6 Papers Redefining the Sciences of Nutrition, Cancer and Healthcare. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://nutritionstudies.org/6-papers-redefining-sciences-nutrition-cancer-healthcare/

 

Fuhrman, J. (2017). Preventing and Treating Cancer. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/position-papers/14/preventing-and-treating-cancer

 

National Cancer Institute. (2018). Comprehensive Cancer Information. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://www.cancer.gov/

 

National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation. (2018). National Cancer Survivors Day. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from http://www.ncsd.org/index.htm

 

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. (2018, February). National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/default.aspx

 

Ornish, D., Magbanua, M. J., Weidner, G., Weinberg, V., Kemp, C., Green, C., . . . Carroll, P. R. (2008). Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(24), 8369-8374. doi:10.1073/pnas.0803080105