Learning how to take care of your physical and mental health after a cancer diagnosis is the key to living your life to the fullest. These steps from the National Cancer Institute can help cancer survivors do just that.
Understand your plan of care
Make sure your health care provider clearly explains what to expect: How often will you need to return for checkups? What tests will you need? What major physical and emotional issues can you expect to face in the next year or two, and how should you deal with them? If your oncologist recommends frequent checks for cancer recurrence, take the advice seriously.
Don't neglect other recommended cancer screenings. A woman successfully treated for melanoma should have regular mammograms, just like other women.
Manage your symptoms
Be proactive in dealing with any aftereffects of radiation or chemotherapy. Contact your doctor if you are worried about new or ongoing symptoms. This includes cognitive changes, such as short-term memory loss, inability to remember names or finish sentences, confusion, or inability to complete simple tasks.
Recent studies show a moderate exercise program can improve physical stamina and lift the psychological well-being of people who are feeling fatigued long after treatment has ended. Develop a plan for physical activity that works for you, based on your health care provider's advice.
Staying smoke-free is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy and cancer-free.
Improve your nutrition
Make sure you're eating a well-rounded diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Maintain your mental health
Signs that you may need help from a mental health professional include constantly worrying about your cancer returning or often feeling anxious or depressed. Consider calling a social worker, clinical psychologist, or psychiatrist.
Stay current with treatment developments
Visit reputable websites, including the NCI site. Or, visit the NCI's Cancer Information Service. Check out the American Cancer Society website and its Cancer Survivors Network.
Support groups for cancer survivors can be a great source of comfort when you suffer fear of recurrence, have questions about self-care, or just need some understanding. Support groups can also be helpful for family members, including children.