Getting Back into the Routine after Radiation Therapy


Often when someone falls ill with a serious illness like cancer, his inclination is to visit his doctor or a group of specialists and expect the health care professional to “fix” him. What the patient might not realize is that whatever treatment is prescribed is often just a first step or a piece of the puzzle, and the patient will need to go the rest of the way and do the things that can help him return to good health.



Cancer treatment in particular often goes hand in hand with lifestyle changes designed to help the patient handle the side effects of treatment, and to help the treatment to be more effective. Long-term lifestyle changes can also help prevent cancer from returning after treatment.


Exercise should be an integral part of any recovery plan for a person receiving cancer treatment. In general, exercise can help to improve self-esteem, reduce anxiety and improve overall health. A recent study has revealed that activities like walking, swimming or cycling may help to reduce fatigue among prostate cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy. Fatigue is a common complaint among people who are recovering from or being treated for cancer. The researchers found that moderately intense workouts produced the best results. Walking is an excellent low-intensity workout, as is yoga or swimming.


There is currently no research to support a direct correlation between exercise and the prevention of the return of cancer, but regular exercise can prevent someone from becoming overweight or obese. There is more accumulating research indicating that obesity can reduce a patient’s survivability rate and/or increase the chance that cancer will recur. Obesity also increases the risk of other health problems and can adversely affect overall quality of life.


If you have undergone treatment for cancer, you should always check with your doctor or cancer specialists before you begin any exercise program. It is best to start slow—again, a low-intensity workout is fine. A brief walk or a few minutes in a pool is fine to begin with; then, you can slowly try to build up your endurance and do more as time goes on. One note of caution: if you have a weakened immune system you may want to avoid the gym, since public gyms often have a lot of germs and bacteria. Also, people undergoing radiation treatment should avoid chlorinated pools, since chlorine may irritate the skin over the treated area.


In terms of diet, many studies indicate that increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can be beneficial during and after the treatment of some kinds of cancer. There is also some evidence that lowering your intake of red meat and fatty foods can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. If nothing else, a healthy diet can help prevent obesity and the risks it brings. For vitamins, a basic multivitamin with 100% of the daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals is probably beneficial, but taking too much of any one vitamin or supplement may actually have a negative effect.


Doctors and specialists can treat you for cancer, but if you truly want to get healthy, you need to take charge of your own recovery. You can do this by exercising and eating right.



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