7. How to Stay Healthy
Patients undergoing treatment can shore up their physical (and emotional) reserves by eating well, exercising and cutting stress (which impairs the immune system). The American Institute for Cancer Research, which funds studies on the role of food and exercise in cancer prevention and treatment, recommends a diet that’s at least two-thirds vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans. Below is a roundup of research related to staying healthy:
- A study of 22,000 healthy Greeks showed their “Mediterranean diet,” rich in vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fruit and fish, reduced their risk of dying from cancer by at least 25 percent. Other studies have found that nutrients in dark, leafy greens may inhibit the growth of tumor cells in breast, skin, lung and stomach cancers and that green tea may thwart cancer development in colon, liver, breast and prostate cells. (A leading theory: flavonoids in tea and carotenoids in leafy greens, which act as antioxidants, may protect against cancer by rooting out free radicals.)
- A pair of 2006 studies showed that regular exercise reduced by up to 61 percent the odds of death in colorectal cancer patients. The findings held even in patients who did not start exercising until after diagnosis.
- A 2005 study showed that 92 percent of nearly 3,000 women with breast cancer who walked or did other exercise three to five hours weekly were still alive 10 years after their diagnosis, compared with 86 percent of those who exercised less than an hour a week.
- A 30-year review of the scientific literature, published in 2004, suggested that cancer patients who feel helpless or who suppress negative emotions may be at greater risk of having their cancer spread than those who play a role in their healing.
8. Looking Ahead: Start a Family?
Does a cancer diagnosis spell the end of your dreams to have a family? In a word—no. Note to readers: check your options before undertaking treatments that may cause infertility. In the event that you cannot become pregnant, there is always surrogacy and adoption. Despite what you’ve heard, it is possible to adopt if you’ve had cancer. The key: pick an agency and country that are open to working with cancer survivors.
For more, check out:
- www.fertilehope.org: This site provides unvarnished facts about fertility risks associated with cancer treatment as well as fertility-preservation and parenthood alternatives before, during and after treatment. It outlines the success rates, costs and time requirements for a variety of fertility procedures and also addresses other possibilities, including egg and sperm donation, surrogacy and adoption.
- www.pregnantwithcancer.org: This Web site links newly pregnant cancer patients with others with a similar cancer who have already been there, done that.