Tags: DigIn, DigIn21, Magazine, DigInMagazine, SeptOct, Fall, LWES, cancer prevention, cancer diagnosis advice

Cancer Prevention Treatment Survivorship

Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States, and there are plenty of ways you can help prevent its onset. With the advancement of care after diagnosis, there are also plenty of us searching for ways to stay healthy during treatment and after surviving diagnosis. 

Here are the top tips for thriving during each stage.

Prevention[1]

Stay lean and within a healthy weight range. Take steps to fall, and stay, within this range with maintainable weight loss (or gain) no faster than 2-3 pounds per week.
 

 

Be physically active every day. Obtain physician clearance if you’re new to working out.
 

 

Eat mostly plant-based foods. Enjoy a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried beans and lentils.
 

 

Avoid sugary drinks while limiting energy-dense foods. This includes traditional sodas, sweetened iced tea, energy drinks, fruit and coffee drinks and options such as candy, baked goods, breakfast pastries and fried foods.
 

 

Limit consumption of red meats and avoid processed meats. Aim for no more than a total of 11 to 18 ounces per week.
 

 

Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages. Imbibing works against your immune system. Keep consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women.

 
 

Meet nutrient needs through food alone. Due to conflicting research on the benefits of high-dose supplements on cancer risk, obtain nutrients through foods whenever possible.

 

Breastfeed. Breastfeeding for at least six months, as well as being breastfed for at least six months as an infant, continues to be advantageous in reducing one’s risk for cancer and overall disease.
 

 

During Treatment[2]

Although overall nutrition recommendations remain constant through prevention, treatment and survivorship, here are specific ways to stay nourished during this time:
 

Stock up. Make meals ahead of time and freeze for easier meal prep later. Fill cupboards with favorite, crave-worthy foods that provide quality protein and calories.

 
 

Stay hydrated. Be mindful of your fluid intake, even when thirst wanes.
 

 

Mood affects food. Your emotions, anxiety and sleep will be impacted and skew your hunger. Just like thirst, eat even if hunger declines. Multiple snack-size portions can help, and remember to take advantage when your appetite is strong!
 

 

Treatment affects your body. Sore and/or dry mouth, nausea and/or vomiting, constipation and/or diarrhea and taste and smell changes may occur during treatment. Work with your healthcare team for the best strategies to address any issues that become present.
 

 

Indulge sensibly. To help curb weight loss and meet heightened calorie needs, you may hear something unusual: Eat ice cream, choose full-fat milk, cheese and yogurt and indulge in larger portion sizes. When doing so, opt not to go rogue and eat fried foods, pastries and candy. Your body will use the building blocks you give it to heal, so eat foods teeming with nutrients.
 

 

Stay food safe. Food safety is crucial during treatment. Always wash your hands before and after handling food— including when eating. Clean surfaces, such as countertops and cutting boards, regularly. Keep raw eggs, meat, seafood and flour away from other foods. Verify foods are cooked to their proper internal temperature with an instant-read food thermometer. Keep refrigerators below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and at 0 degrees in the freezer.
 

  

Survivorship

Unless you've been given individualized guidance from your oncologist and/or primary care provider, your needs will slowly begin to reflect the same recommendations as for the general population. Here’s a roadmap for feeling well after treatment:
 

Paint a bright plate with fruits and vegetables. Every color provides unique protective plant compounds, so enjoy the colors of the rainbow each day.
 

 

Fuel with fiber and slash sugar. The care team at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Survivorship Clinic offers an easy way to remember this with their 30/30 Rule: Eat over 30 grams fiber and under 30 grams added sugars, daily.
 

Think twice about supplements. It may be tempting to grab onto better-for-you marketing claims, but the use of supplements may be unnecessary. If you're considering adding a supplement or functional food and/or beverage to your meal plan, consult your healthcare team first.
 

 

Sprinkle in more plant-based protein. These nutrient-rich foods provide a bonus of fiber and other plant compounds, on top of protein.

To create a Survivorship Care Plan.

Visit www.cancer.org/survivorshipcareplans for easy-to-use templates.

[1] American Institute for Cancer Research. How to Prevent Cancer: 10 Recommendations. https://www.aicr.org/cancer-prevention/. Accessed on 6/21/2021.
[2] National Cancer Institute. Support for People with Cancer- Eating Hints: Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/eatinghints.pdf. Accessed on 6/21/2021.