The word ‘cancer’ is fraught with emotion – mostly negative.  How does one manage the physical and emotional components of a cancer diagnosis?

Taking Control

Navigating a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Treatment usually happens quickly. Aside from dealing with physical effects of the disease itself and conventional treatments such as chemotherapy, people may have to adjust their lifestyle, with changes to their diet, supplement, and exercise regimens.

Then there’s the emotional impact. A diagnosis can trigger deep inner turmoil. Many people find they need support and healing for their mind and soul as much as for their body. There are a number of emotional reactions that a person may go through, including shock, fear, and anxiety. Even if it’s a stage 1 or stage 2, the word ‘cancer, has so much associated with it. People can also feel quite alienated and powerless.

However, there are steps people can take to feel more in control of what some call the ‘cancer journey’. Making healthy lifestyle changes is one. The way in which our health care system is set up, people go through conventional treatments of radiation or chemotherapy and they’re not in control at all.

What’s crucial to know is that there are many ways they can improve their health and well-being. There’s a lot they can do to improve their quality of life and to extend their life.

Eating Foods that Heal

Diet plays a huge role in overall well-being, and healthy changes can be especially helpful when someone is going through cancer.  Medical cancer treatments are all about killing cancer cells, but in the process healthy cells are damaged as well.  That’s why good nutrition is so important.


Eating a variety of the right kinds of foods before, during, and after treatment can boost energy, strength, mood, and immunity.  It can also help you maintain weight, lower the risk of infection, better tolerate side effects from treatment, and diminish recovery and healing time.

Special Requirements

Cancer and its treatments can affect the body’s ability to tolerate certain foods and use nutrients.  Sometimes people need to consume a high-calorie diet in order to keep their weight up.  Cancer can also affect people’s appetite and capacity to eat.  Nausea, mouth sores, gum problems, depress, and fatigue can all make
eating difficult or uncomfortable.  In some cases, people need to consume soft, cool foods such as smoothies or

During and after cancer treatment, a wholesome diet low in fat and red meat and high in fibre and plant-based foods is beneficial in getting well and staying well.

Anticancer Diet

Many people adopt an anticancer diet, which includes foods that are proven to help ward off the disease, including garlic; cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage; tomatoes; spinach; and
blueberries, among others.


Supplements may also be recommended to give cancer patients immune-system support.  Working with a
team of doctors, naturopathic physicians, and nutritionists is the best way to determine what type of nutrients are safe and effective in any given circumstance.

Moving the Body

Exercise is another factor that provides many benefits to people facing cancer.  The overall positive health effects included increased energy, improved mood, and better sleep.  It’s also beneficial in ways specific to cancer.

Improve body image

Some cancers, such as those of the gastrointestinal tract, head, and neck, are typically associated with loss of weight and muscle mass, exercises that help build lean muscle are important.  In others, such as breast cancer, treatment often leads to weight gain.  In those patient, activities that help control weight and reduce fat help people get to a health range.

Get started

You can start slowly.  For those who already have been doing exercise and feel strong and fit maybe it’s 30 minutes of vigorous exercise four times a week.  Motivation can be a challenge so it helps to do some exercise with a buddy or a group in the community.  It is about building up some strength and stamina.

Reducing exposure to environmental toxins

Environmental toxins may be linked to certain types of cancer.  Reducing exposure to as many as possible is a positive lifestyle move.  Flame retardants (PBDEs) and phthalates, may increase cancer risk because they contain endocrine disruptions.

Personal care products or cleaning agents they use at home may contain toxins.  Indoor air quality is a concern as well and air purifiers, looking for mold in the home and not ingesting food and drink that contain chemicals like pesticides can help reduce exposure to cancers.

Caring for the Soul

When finding out about a cancer diagnosis, people feel shock, disbelief, helpless, overwhelmed, and fearful.

Having a strong support network and access to counselling are two elements that have been show to have tremendous benefits.  Support groups help people share their experiences and reflect on what is relevant in their lives.

Lasting, positive changes

The benefits and importance of healthy lifestyle changes go well beyond treatment for cancer.  They can help prevent recurrence as well as the onset of other types of cancer in the future.  Prevention is the key.

About half of all cancers can be prevented, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Breast Cancer – The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation reports that one-third of all cases of that form of the disease are preventable.

Melanoma – This cancer is also preventable; young people under the age of 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 75 percent when using indoor tanning equipment.

Lung Cancer – This remains one of the leading causes of cancer deaths with smoking being an obvous contributing factor.

Meat – the consumption of red and processed meats increase risk of cancer.

Overweight – There’s a greater risk of developing cancer if you’re overweight.

Alcohol – Drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing many types of cancer, including that of the breast, colon and rectum, esophagus, larynx, liver, mouth, and pharynx.