Cancer Survivorship Tips

What does the research say?

Why is learning about cancer survivorship important?

“Cancer survivors currently comprise 3%–4% of the US population and their numbers are steadily rising.28 Although improvements in cure rates are cause for great celebration, cancer survivors are at increased risk for recurrence.”

Physical Issues

1.      Exercise

“Several recent studies suggest that higher levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk of the cancer coming back, and a longer survival after a cancer diagnosis,” said Kerry Courneya, PhD, professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Cancer at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

WHY EXERCISE?… In addition to lowering risk of recurrence exercise can also

  • Improve mood.
  • Boost self-confidence.
  • Reduce fatigue.
  • Lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

WHEN TO START?…as soon as possible.

Studies show that after a cancer diagnosis, people slow down. Stress, depression, and feeling sick or fatigued from cancer or its treatment all tend to make people less active.

The problem is, most people stay sedentary after treatment

“As a long-term solution to the problem of fatigue, taking it easy and avoiding activity is not a good solution,” says Courneya. “It is important for cancer survivors to get back to exercising to help their recovery.”


  • Flexibility exercises (stretching). Virtually everyone can do flexibility exercises. “Stretching is important to keep moving, to maintain mobility,” says Doyle. If you’re not yet ready for more vigorous exercise, you should at least stay flexible.
  • Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, and swimming. This kind of exercise burns calories and helps you lose weight. Aerobic exercise also builds cardiovascular fitness, which lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
  • Resistance training (Iifting weights or isometric exercise), which builds muscle. Many people lose muscle, but gain fat, through cancer treatment. For those with a high fat-to-lean mass ratio, “resistance training can be especially helpful,” says Doyle.

For the general population, the American Cancer Society recommends “at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days a week.”

“The key is to start slowly and build your body’s energy over time,” says Courneya. “Your body has been through a lot and it is necessary to challenge it gradually.”

  1. Weight Control/Nutrition

Research to date suggests that overweight and obesity increase the risk of cancer recurrence and mortality (cancer-related and overall).

In addition, although there are mixed findings with regard to diet composition and specific food choices, evidence well supports the consumption of plant-based, low saturated fat diets to promote overall health and survival.

  1. Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue can last from months to years, and continues after treatment ends, too. Many people with cancer say fatigue is the most distressing side effect of cancer and its treatment.

Sometimes medical causes can be found and treated. If no treatable medical cause is found, there are practical ways to manage and minimize cancer-related fatigue, including good sleep habits, approved physical activities, and smart use of your time and energy.

Emotional Issues:

  1.       Fear of Cancer Recurrence (FCR)
  • “Survivors reported low to moderate level of FCR but considered it as one of the top greatest concerns and the most frequently endorsed unmet need.” Not a lot of fear but often part of their life.
  • “FCR remains stable over the survivorship trajectory.”  Fear does not go up or down as the years pass.
  • “Younger age, presence and severity of physical symptoms, psychological distress and lower quality of life were associated with higher FCR.”   If you are younger or if you struggle with symptoms post treatment- higher fear.
  • “Health behaviours, psychological reactions and functional impairments were identified as FCR consequences.”  Fear of recurrence can lead to these problems.

Carers reported higher FCR than the patients.”  Caregivers have more fear than the survivor.


  1.       Depression

Some signs of fatigue look a lot like those of depression, and it’s easy to confuse them. Depression involves an inability to feel pleasure – people who are depressed feel sad or unworthy. They may give up hope. You can have fatigue and not be depressed, although some people have both fatigue and depression.

About Karen Tripp

Beyond being a Christian Counselor and the President of Cancer Companions, Karen loves to read (she's a great reader) and loves to sing (she's a bad singer) in her home near St Louis, MO. Cancer has personally touched Karen's personal life through her dad - a 23 year colon cancer survivor. Impacting lives for Christ through her speaking, writing and counseling fills Karen with a passion which infuses every task she approaches. (except matching socks. Karen hates matching socks.)
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