Helping Cancer Patients and Survivors Stay Physically Healthy
People who have cancer often live at home and get help from loved ones such as their spouse, family members, friends, or neighbors. If you are caring for a cancer survivor, we offer some helpful tips below.
Going to the Doctor
If you take your loved one to the doctor, you can do some very important tasks—
- Before the visit, write down questions and information you or your loved one want to share with the doctor, like new symptoms or possible side effects.
- Bring a list of medicines that your loved one is taking.
- Write down what the doctor says.
- Make sure you both understand what to do next.
Cancer patients treated with chemotherapy are more likely to get an infection. That’s because chemotherapy can weaken the immune system.
To help make sure your loved one with cancer doesn’t get an infection—
- Stay clean and wash your hands often.
- Get a flu shot every year, and encourage the patient to get one, too.
- Get the COVID-19 vaccine and any booster doses to stay up-to-date.
- Practice good health habits to help stop germs from spreading.
- If you notice any cuts or scrapes on the patient’s skin, help clean and bandage them.
Call a doctor right away if you notice that the patient has any signs of an infection, especially a fever.
Reporting Possible Side Effects
Cancer treatments can cause many side effects. A side effect is a problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. It’s important for you to watch for possible side effects.
Encourage your loved one with cancer to talk to the doctor about any physical, mental, or emotional changes. The doctor may be able to help your loved one manage these changes.
Making Choices to Stay Healthy
You can also encourage your loved one to make healthy choices that will lower the chance of getting cancer again, like—
- Staying away from tobacco. If your loved one smokes, help him or her try to quit, and to stay away from other people’s smoke.
- Limiting the amount of alcohol he or she drinks.
- Protecting his or her skin from overexposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds.
- Eating lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Keeping a healthy weight.
- Being physically active.
Someone who feels supported is more likely to quit smoking for good. That’s why friends, family members, and significant others can play a big part in helping a person become smokefree.
Getting Follow-Up Care After Treatment Ends
You can help your loved one get follow-up care—checkups and tests to find early signs of new or the same cancer. After each visit to the doctor, make sure you understand what your loved one needs to do next.
- Caregiving (CDC)
- When Someone You Love Is Being Treated for Cancer: Support for Caregivers (National Cancer Institute)
- Informal Caregivers in Cancer (National Cancer Institute)
- Follow-Up Medical Care (National Cancer Institute)
- Life After Cancer (American Cancer Society)
- Caregiving after Treatment Ends (National Cancer Institute)