The journey to overcome cancer takes so much of the human spirit. Harnessing every ounce of courage, strength, support and hope, completing treatment and transitioning from a cancer patient to a survivor marks the start of a new path, one that’s all about getting back to feeling your best and being empowered to thrive.
As a gynecologic cancer specialist and a cancer survivor, I have a unique perspective to share. I want cancer survivors to do everything they can to optimize their overall wellness to reduce the chances of their cancer recurring, and to live full, healthy lives. Research-backed evidence shows that a lifestyle optimizing balance in body, mind and spirit can make a big impact on health outcomes.
Prevention Whenever Possible
There are about 12 million cancer survivors in the U.S., and with a growing number of early detection methods and promising cancer treatments, this number is expected to rise.
So, how do we help our survivors by decreasing the risk of recurrence, supporting continued healing and optimizing long-term health?
Lifestyle factors such as body weight, physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption and smoking could hold the key to improved health outcomes and quality of life among survivors. Good health is all about balance, and this is as true in cancer prevention as in any other field of medicine. Poor nutrition, bad health habits and stress can increase risk for recurrence.
Take an Aggressive Approach
I believe in being aggressive about treatment and survival. My patients are women who are being treated for some of the most difficult cancers. When they come through to the other side, I want them to feel truly well, and for their lives as cancer survivors to be as abundant as possible. As research shows, new habits are essential in going beyond survival into a thriving next chapter.
Prepare to Thrive
Adopting these lifestyle changes are the cornerstone of your journey to thrive.
- Diet: You are what you eat, especially after enduring cancer treatment. Limiting red meat and switching to a predominately plant-based diet with five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, increased beans and whole grains and an overall reduction in fat and salt intake is the way to go.
- Exercise: You don’t have to train for a marathon, just force yourself to get moving for a small part of every day. Moderate exercise for 30-minutes each day can make a huge difference.
- Smoking: This seems obvious, but it’s really the most essential thing on the list. Multiple studies have shown that smoking significantly increases the chances for cancer recurrence and not just at the site of a patient’s original cancer.
- Consuming alcohol: There has also been research indicating that alcohol leads to increased recurrence rates after treatment. Why risk it?
About Dr. McKenzie
Nathalie Dauphin McKenzie, MD, MSPH, is a board-certified gynecologic oncologist for Florida Hospital Medical Group with a breadth of experience providing advanced treatments, including minimally invasive and robotic-assisted procedures for women with all types of gynecologic cancer. She is also a multilingual provider with fluency in English, French, medical Spanish and Haitian Creole. Learn more at FHMedicalGroup.com.