After treatment for colon and rectal cancer
After your treatment is finished, you’ll have regular check-ups.
You may also have scans or x-rays, and sometimes colonoscopies. These will probably continue for several years. Many people find that, for a while, they get very anxious before their appointments. This is natural. It may help to get support from family and friends during this time.
If you have any problems or notice any new symptoms in between check-ups, let your doctor know as soon as possible.
Many people survive colon and rectal cancer. However, the treatment can be very hard and it may be some time before you are feeling fit and well again. Some people have side effects that gradually improve over time, while others may have ongoing side effects.
You may have a range of other effects, such as trouble sleeping, or feeling weaker and more tired than usual, rather than specific treatment side effects. You may have lost or gained some weight or have stiff muscles or joints. Living a healthy lifestyle can help your body recover more quickly and return to normal, and may help to prevent the cancer from returning.
It will also help to reduce the risk of other illnesses, such as heart disease and strokes.
Lifestyle - positive choices, helping yourself
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Some people want to make changes to their lifestyle after cancer. You might choose to make just a few changes or completely change the way you live. Adopting a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be very difficult or expensive.
Living a healthy lifestyle can sometimes appear to be a lot of hard work, and as if you will be denying yourself all of the pleasures in life. However, it’s about making small, achievable changes to the way you live that will improve your health and well-being. Your healthy lifestyle will be individual to you, and what is right for you may not be right for someone else. A healthy lifestyle can include having a well-balanced diet, getting some exercise, reducing stress and being involved in your healthcare. You’ll need to think about any side effects of treatment when planning changes to your diet and exercise. Don’t try to do too much too soon.
A well-balanced diet should include:
plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day)
foods high in fibre, such as beans and cereals
plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids.
Try to reduce your intake of:
red meat and animal fats
salted, pickled and smoked foods.
Before making major changes to your diet, it’s a good idea to discuss your plans with your specialist or with a dietitian at the hospital.
If you are a smoker, you may want to stop smoking. This has many health benefits and reduces your risk of other diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
Exercise doesn’t have to be particularly strenuous. You can start gently and build up the amount of physical activity you do. Whatever your age or physical health, there will be some kind of exercise you could try, such as walking, hiking, cycling or swimming. Activities like gardening, dancing and playing sport are also good to try.
There are lots of ways to reduce the stress in your life. You could make time to do things that you enjoy or that make you laugh. Some people find it relaxing to meditate or pray, or to start a new pastime or an evening class.
You may find it helpful to write a journal or online blog.
Being involved in your healthcare means taking your medications when directed, always going for follow-up appointments and being aware of symptoms of a possible recurrence of the cancer.
If you’re considering making some major changes to your lifestyle it can be a good idea to discuss your plans with your doctor or specialist nurse.