Healthy Living After Childhood Cancer

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C
Last Reviewed: November 30, 2022

Survivors often wonder what steps they can take to live healthier after cancer. There is no one supplement or specific food you can eat to assure good health. There are things you can do to live healthier, prevent other diseases, and find any cancers early.

  • Diet and Nutrition: Try eating a diet that mostly comes from plants like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Chicken, fish, and low-fat dairy products can provide good protein sources. Try to avoid too much red meat, processed foods, fast foods, or processed meats like bacon. Drinking water will help you stay hydrated. Talk with a dietitian for food recommendations after cancer treatment
  • Physical activity: Try to move every day. Start small and build up your exercise abilities over time. Ask a family member or friend to be your exercise partner.
  • Avoid tobacco use: Tobacco is addictive and linked to several cancers (not just lung cancer). All types of tobacco should be avoided to prevent cancer.
  • Talk with your primary care provider about routine cancer screenings.

Ask for a Survivorship Care Plan

A survivorship care plan (SCP) can be a great tool to learn about life after cancer. An SCP should include information about health issues (like long term and late effects) that can be caused by the cancer treatment you had. An SCP can give you information about:

  • Ways you can lessen the risk of long term and late side effects.
  • Any tests (blood work, scans) you should have and when you should have these tests.
  • Things to report to your healthcare team.
  • Provide resources and information about practical concerns including fear of recurrence, financial issues, sexual changes, and more.

You can also make your own survivorship care plan through Smart ALACC, Oncolink's SCP tool for childhood cancer survivors.

Managing Your Healthcare

Who is going to manage your health after cancer treatment? This may be a team of providers including an oncologist, a survivorship specialist, and a primary care provider. If you would like to find a survivorship provider, you can contact cancer centers in your area to see if they have a survivor's clinic or search for a clinic on OncoLink's survivorship clinic list.

A primary care provider can manage other health concerns (for example blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) and provide preventive care and screening (for example: checking cholesterol levels, getting a flu shot, ordering a mammogram).

Are cancer survivors at increased risk of cancer?

Some studies show that cancer survivors are more likely to develop another cancer when compared to someone who has never had cancer. This could be due to a treatment (certain types of chemotherapy or radiation therapy) you had. These are called secondary cancers, because they develop as a result of therapy.

You could also develop a second cancer unrelated to your first diagnosis. This may be due to exposure to risk factors (smoking, for example), or a genetic predisposition in certain individuals, but in many cases the reason for the increased risk is unclear. While this may sound scary, it is a reminder of the importance of cancer screening and of maintaining a healthy lifestyle in your post-cancer life.

Healthy living after cancer is an important part of your life. Ask your provider if you have any questions about living a healthy lifestyle.

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