Lifestyle and diet

Getting enough fruit and vegetables each day is very beneficial. Your diet can have a big impact on your risk of developing cancer and other health conditions. Eating a balanced diet can be difficult, especially if this isn’t something you’ve ever thought about before. Try to take each day at a time.

Getting active is one of the best ways to lose weight. Being overweight can make you more at risk of developing cancer. You don’t need to do strenuous exercise straight away. Building up your activity levels each day, moving even a small amount, can make a big difference to your health.

Positive lifestyle choices make a big difference in the long-term. Alcohol and drugs can lift your mood and improve how you feel. But this approach only works in the short-term and can have long-term consequences.

Eating well and exercising can be difficult. You may feel low and lose interest at times, particularly if it takes a while for you to see any improvements in your health or weight. Speak to your GP for advice if you need it.

Diet and cancer

Experts think that up to 1 in 10 cancers (10%) in the UK may be linked to diet. There’s a lot of research being done into which types of food may affect our risk of developing cancer.

Research suggests that a lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet may contribute to about 6 in 100 cancers (6%) in men. And being overweight may contribute to about 7 in 100 cancers (7%) in women. There are many reasons why people are overweight, but an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are often factors.

Our diets are made up of many types of foods, which in turn are made up of thousands of different substances. Some of these may increase our risk of cancer, but others may protect us. How diet affects our risk of developing cancer is complicated, and we still don’t completely understand it.

Despite this, we do know that a balanced diet and regular exercise help us keep to a healthy weight, which can help reduce the risk of developing some cancers.

Why be more active?

When you are living with or after cancer becoming more active can help you make a positive change to your life. We can all benefit from being physically active. It helps reduce the risk of health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and is recommended as a treatment for these conditions. There’s also evidence that physical activity can benefit people affected by cancer.

Physical activity is any movement using your muscles that helps improve your fitness, health and wellbeing.

At first you might feel nervous about building up your activity levels, especially if you haven’t been active for a while. You may be worried that you’re too tired or you may not know where to begin.

Even a little physical activity is better than none. It can help you feel less stressed and generally healthier. It can also help you to feel more in control because you are doing something for yourself.

During treatment, doctors and nurses usually advise you to try to limit the time you spend sitting or lying down. They may encourage you to take some gentle activity such as going for short walks. Not being active can make you feel more tired and lose cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength. Cardiorespiratory fitness is how well your heart and lungs work to deliver oxygen to muscles over longer periods of time.

After treatment, being physically active can help you to cope with and recover from some side effects.

Being active can range from simple daily activities such as, housework, gardening and walking to the shops to more energetic activities such as running, cycling, dancing or a gym based exercise programme.

How much and what you choose to do will depend on where you are with your treatment, your preferences and level of fitness.

Alcohol and recreational drugs

It may feel good at first to have a few drinks or take recreational drugs to help you forget how you’re feeling. However, this is only a short-term solution. Alcohol and drugs can cause problems and damage relationships with family and friends. In the long-term, alcohol and recreational drugs may seriously damage your health.

Taking recreational drugs can also change the effect of some painkillers, so your doctor or nurse may ask you about this.

It is important to be open with them about using these drugs.

Back to Managing day-to-day life

Work and cancer

Coping at work can be difficult when dealing with cancer. Asking for changes to the way you work can help you to manage.


Brain tumours may affect your ability to drive safely. Make sure you notify the DVLA if you’ve had a brain tumour.

Tip - asking for help

Try not to feel guilty about asking for help. Support is widely available and can make managing day-to-day life easier.