“Now what?!” … is a common response that I hear from my patients once they have completed their head and neck cancer treatment. The end of treatment often brings mixed emotions—relief and gratitude for being finished with treatment, but also other feelings—such as uncertainty, fear of cancer recurrence, and unknowing of what lies ahead. How does one begin to approach cancer survivorship?
One in every 25 Americans is a cancer survivor. The American Cancer Society (ACS) defines a cancer survivor as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Statistics reported by the Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer website report that there are over 500,000 survivors of head and neck cancer in the United States. Now that you are a survivor, where do you start? Where do you begin? Here are some ideas and strategies for life after cancer treatment.
The American Cancer Society recommends:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- If overweight or obese, limit consumption of high-calorie foods and beverages and increase physical activity to promote weight loss.
- Engage in regular physical activity
- Avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible following diagnosis.
- Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.
- Include strength training exercises at least 2 days per week.
- Achieve a dietary pattern that is high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Cancer survivors are also encouraged to follow the American Cancer Society’s Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention:
- Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit consumption of processed meat and red meat.
- Eat at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
- Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.
- If you do drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption. Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men.
- Be as lean as possible throughout life without being underweight.
In the next blog, we will discuss more specific ways that you can put these recommendations into practice and make an action plan for healthy living after treatment.