Cancer treatments continue to improve and more patients than ever survive beyond treatment, so it’s important to look at how quality of life can be maximised for patients living with and beyond cancer. In fact, quality of life can be greatly improved by a few small lifestyle changes, as shown by a recently published study. Here we take a look at what exactly these changes should be and how they can have a big impact on the lives of people living through cancer.
A dip in quality of life is often seen among people living with and beyond cancer. It’s understandable as you come to terms with your diagnosis, tell family and friends, decide on treatment, and undergo what can be a gruelling treatment schedule. Depression, anxiety and fear are often experienced to some degree by patients. And these things can affect how well you’re able to follow your treatment plan. But there are plenty of things you can do to improve how you feel on a day-to-day basis and there’s a growing amount of evidence to support this.
Many people living with or recovering from cancer don’t meet the recommendations for a healthy lifestyle. But a recent analysis has suggested that lifestyle changes can have a big impact on quality of life in these patients. The investigators looked at 8 different studies assessing the effects of lifestyle changes for cancer patients and survivors. They found a range of benefits. These included better physical activity, weight loss, improved muscle strength, reduced fatigue, increased vitality, reduced pain, and improvements in mental health and quality of life. The interventions included both exercise and dietary interventions. And these links have been found in several different cancer types.
Let’s take a closer look at the kind of interventions needed to make these changes to our quality of life and wellbeing.
First we should focus on exercise. A review of the best ways to encourage exercise in people living with and recovering from cancer found that setting exercise goals, monitoring your own exercise programme and doing exercise outside of a supervised environment helped to get patients moving. Evidence has shown that regular exercise can reduce tiredness, anxiety and depression. Being active and getting out of the house can also help you focus on other things besides your cancer and the associated worries. You should also look after your emotional wellbeing. So reduce the stress in your life, devote time to activities that make you feel calm and relaxed, find creative outlets like music, art or dance, and share your story with others – it helps to talk about your worries. Remember it’s important to look after yourself, no matter where in your cancer journey you are. It may improve your outcomes, and at the very least, it will give you a boost and make you feel more like yourself.