Staying Healthy During and After Cancer Treatment
These tips can help you stay healthy and lower your chance of getting cancer again.
People with cancer who are treated with chemotherapy are more likely to get infections. Why? Because chemotherapy can damage your immune system by reducing the number of white blood cells that fight infection.
Angela worried about getting an infection when she started chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. “I asked each member of my medical team that day what was the number 1 thing I should do to avoid getting sick during my treatment,” she recalls. “They followed it with other advice, but cleaning hands often was the clear weapon of choice against the spread of germs.”
Washing your hands is also important for people who live with or care for cancer survivors. As Angela puts it, “Even if you’re one of the healthiest people you know, always remember that the person beside you may not be so lucky. Handwashing is not just about protecting yourself, but about protecting people around you.”
How to Lower Your Chance of Getting Cancer Again
If you have had cancer, you have a higher chance of getting cancer again than someone who has not had cancer. That’s why it’s very important for you to do things to stay healthy.
Get Your Checkups
When your treatment is finished, your doctor may tell you that you should get checkups or tests in the future. This is called follow-up care. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. These tests can help find early signs of a new cancer or the same cancer.
Make Healthy Choices
You can lower your risk of getting cancer again or having the cancer come back by making healthy choices. Some of the best things you can do for your health include—
- Staying away from tobacco.
- Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Protecting your skin from the sun and avoiding indoor tanning.
- Keeping a healthy weight.
Your Mental and Emotional Health Are Important, Too
Being told you have cancer is scary. It’s normal to feel worried, sad, afraid, or even angry. Some treatments for cancer also can affect your feelings, or make it hard for you to concentrate or remember things.
If you’re having problems, talk to your doctor. Your health care team may be able to help you, or they can refer you to mental health services. And reach out to family members, friends, a support group, or a psychologist for support.
After George was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he recalls, “I began my journey back to health by relying on my support network and positive attitude. I also work at keeping a confident outlook on life by participating in cancer discussion groups with other survivors. Their stories encourage me.”