After cancer treatment, many survivors want to find ways to reduce the chances of their cancer coming back.

Some worry that the way they eat, the stress in their lives, or their exposure to chemicals may put them at risk. Cancer survivors find that this is a time when they take a good look at how they take care of themselves. This is an important start to living a healthy life. When you meet with your doctor about follow-up care, you should also ask about developing a wellness plan that includes ways you can take care of your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.

If you find that it’s hard to talk with your doctor about these issues, it may be helpful to know that the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And your doctor may suggest other members of the health care team for you to talk with, such as a social worker, clergy member, or nurse.

Changes You May Want To Think About Making

  • Quit smoking. Research shows that smoking can increase the chances of getting cancer at the same site or another site.
  • Cut down on how much alcohol you drink. Research shows that drinking alcohol increases your chances of getting certain types of cancers.
  • Eat well. Healthy food choices and physical activity may help reduce the risk of cancer or recurrence. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist to find out about any special dietary needs that you may have.

The American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research have developed similar diet and fitness guidelines that may help reduce the risk of cancer:

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Choose foods low in fat and low in salt.
  • Eat a plant-based diet and have at least 5–9 servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Try to include beans in your diet, and eat whole grains (such as cereals, breads, and pasta) several times daily.

Exercise and stay active.

Several recent reports suggest that staying active after cancer can help lower the risk of recurrence and can lead to longer survival. Moderate exercise (walking, biking, swimming) for about 30 minutes every—or almost every—day can:

  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Improve mood and boost self-esteem
  • Reduce fatigue, nausea, pain, and diarrhea

It is important to start an exercise program slowly and increase activity over time, working with your doctor or a specialist (such as a physical therapist) if needed. If you need to stay in bed during your recovery, even small activities like stretching or moving your arms or legs can help you stay flexible, relieve muscle tension, and help you feel better. Some people may need to take special care in exercising. Talk with your doctor before you begin any exercise program.