Celebrating Cancer Survivors Day

Celebrating Cancer Survivors Day

The special needs of cancer survivors

One in four South Africans’ lives will be affected by a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. This could involve either family member, a colleague, a friend, or themselves.

Survival rates of cancer patients have risen dramatically in the past few decades as a result of the availability of more effective treatments, especially among children. Early detection continues to be one of the major factors in beating cancer.

But as more and more people survive cancer, doctors have become aware of special emotional and nutritional needs in cancer survivors.

The importance of nutrition for cancer survivors

Proper nutrition combined with weight control and exercise are the best ways to stave off another bout of cancer, says the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. They mention that several studies have found that a plant-based diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in meat and animal fat appears to cut the risk of a recurrence of many types of cancer.

A healthy diet can also prevent obesity heart disease and metabolic syndrome. A healthy diet can promote overall health and can also contribute to the improvement of the quality of life for people who have survived cancer.

Emotional aspects to cancer survival

A cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment are traumatic life events – they affect not just the person with cancer, but also your friends and family. Getting to the end of cancer treatment can bring its own fears, grief and uncertainties with it.

Some people find it scary to leave the team of doctors and nurses who cared for them behind. Many cancer survivors have constant fears of recurrence, and go on full alert, quite understandably after what they have been through, at every ache and pain.

Doing all you can (healthy diet, healthy habits) to reduce your cancer risk can provide solace to some cancer survivors. It is important to go to all follow-up appointments and to have the necessary tests done.

Fear, stress, anxiety and depression are normal emotions in cancer survivors. It is difficult to readjust to normal life as well after one’s focus has been on the cancer and the treatment for so long.

Many cancer survivors find it difficult to discuss these issues with people who have not been through it themselves, which is why a cancer survivor support group can be very valuable. Both anxiety and depression respond well to early treatment (therapy and/or medication)  – there is no reason why anyone should face this alone.

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