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Lifestyle changes can be helpful in a variety of important ways:

  • Strengthening your body so that you can withstand some of the rigors of treatment
  • Optimizing the function of your immune system to aid in the fight against cancer
  • Improving your emotional outlook, so you can enjoy life to the fullest, even during treatment for pancreatic cancer
  • Making healthy choices that will help you avoid other medical problems that could complicate your health

Stop Smoking

Smoking is a known risk factor for many cancers. Although you may have already been diagnosed with cancer, it’s not too late to stop smoking. When you quit smoking, you reduce your risk of its many associated medical complications, which should improve your chances of withstanding the physical stresses of cancer and treatment. Also, since the immune system of smokers is generally less effective than nonsmokers, by quitting you may be adding to your immune system’s ability to join in the battle against cancer.

Ask your doctor about programs to help you stop smoking, such as group support , hypnosis , and nicotine replacement drugs .

For more information on quitting smoking, click here .

Stop Drinking Alcohol

Chronic alcohol consumption is associated with pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Chronic pancreatitis is a known risk for pancreatic cancer ; therefore, seek medical help to reduce and preferably quit drinking altogether.

Prevent Diabetes

Diabetes is a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Therefore, it is prudent to prevent diabetes with regular blood sugar testing by your doctor, especially if you have a strong family history for this condition. Once your doctor diagnoses prediabetes , you should follow a strict diet and exercise program to prevent the development of diabetes

Follow a Nutritious Diet

Eating a healthy diet may help you avoid other medical conditions linked to poor nutrition. Because cancer itself and some cancer treatment may have a dulling effect on your appetite, it’s important that you make the most of the calories you do take in. A dietitian can help you learn more about the best kinds of foods for you to eat and how to eat other, less healthy foods in moderation. Avoid making drastic changes in your diet based on the latest fad. Your doctor can refer you to a dietician.

For more information on eating a healthy diet, click here .

Participate in a Reasonable Level of Exercise

If you have not been exercising regularly , check with your doctor to determine a safe exercise program under your current circumstances. Exercise has many benefits that may help you withstand the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and cancer treatment:

  • Promoting overall fitness
  • Boosting your energy level
  • Improving your immune system functioning
  • Bolstering your spirits and improving your emotional outlook

You may consider consulting a personal trainer to help you set exercise goals and to safely follow through on initiating an exercise program. While incorporating exercise, be sure to balance rest and activities to prevent becoming too tired.

For more information on starting a regular exercise program, click here .

Seek Support

The diagnosis of cancer is life-defining event that is difficult to handle for anyone. It's common to feel anxious about the impact of your diagnosis and treatment options. You do not have to face cancer alone. Get help from your family, friends, and your community, such as:

  • Religious community
  • Support groups for people with your type of cancer
  • Professional support (social workers, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists who are trained to help support cancer patients and their families)

People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer often maintain better emotional control. This can help you face the challenges of cancer and its treatment.

Reduce Your Risk of Infection

To decrease your risk of infection, avoid exposure to bacteria and viruses:

  • Try to avoid crowds, especially during cold and flu season.
  • Ask your doctor about immunization against the flu and pneumonia .
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Hand washing is the most effective method of decreasing the chance of catching colds and flu. You may wish to carry hand sanitizer with you for occasions when washing is not convenient.

Rest When Tired

The treatments for cancer can add to the fatigue you already feel from fighting cancer. In fact, fatigue is the most frequently experienced symptom of cancer and cancer treatments. The fatigue you feel can range from "just feeling tired" to complete and utter exhaustion. Wherever in this range you fall, you may find your fatigue quite distressing and affecting your quality of life.

It is important to allow your body time to rest. This will help your body have the strength to heal itself. Studies have shown a relationship between fatigue and an increased morbidity of cancer and cancer treatments as a result of fatigue's adverse effect on appetite, diminished quality of life, and loss of hope.

To help you avoid getting overtired, try not to do too much. Prioritize the things you need to do, and focus on the most important ones. Also, allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and preparing meals. Plan times throughout the day when you can rest.

When to Contact Your Doctor

It’s important that you don’t make major lifestyle changes without consulting your doctor and verifying that you are proceeding safely. You are already being physically and emotionally challenged by the presence of cancer and the rigors of treatment. You and your doctor need to work together to make wise lifestyle choices and implement them in the healthiest way possible. Your doctor can provide referrals to a dietician, personal trainer, therapist, and support group.

References:

Conn HF, Rakel. Conn’s Current Therapy. 54th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002: 720-721.

Detailed guide: pancreatic cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/ . Accessed April 8, 2009.

DiMagno E. Pancreatic carcinoma. In: Cecil RL, Goldman L, Bennett J. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 21st ed.Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company; 2000: 750-752.

Freelove R, Walling AD. Pancreatic cancer: diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73:485-492.



Last reviewed September 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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