Living with Cancer

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Man running; regular physical exercise

Physical activity. It is important to maintain normal routines and practice some sort of exercise insofar as possible and provided that it is not contraindicated. Keeping active helps minimise the side effects associated with the treatment and promotes early recovery. Regular physical activity creates an increased sense of well-being, maintains muscle tone, decreases fatigue, increases appetite, regulates stress, reduces constipation and helps relax the mind. Similarly, physiotherapy exercises are very important after surgery and whenever patients lose muscle mass in their legs. It is vital to ask the doctor about the most appropriate level of activity.

Two beer mugs crossed out indicating that alcohol is forbidden.

Alcohol. Patients are advised not to drink alcohol, although it is not prohibited.

Food pyramid

Diet. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that patients should avoid eating any specific foods. Therefore, no particular food is contraindicated, except on rare occasions due to interactions with certain drugs. Patients should whatever they feel like, but in small amounts and several times a day. It is important to maintain muscle body mass and avoid losing too much weight.

Pill with prescription meds

Medicines. Chemotherapy can interact with other treatments, so patients must inform their healthcare team about any medicines they are taking. Patients taking digoxin (a drug used to treat heart disease) must receive special attention as it can interfere with the absorption of other medicines. Oral anticoagulants (medicines used to treat heart disease) can increase the toxicity or decrease the effectiveness of drugs. Antivirals (medicines used in the treatment of HIV infection) can interact with some chemotherapy drugs. Interactions have also been observed with antiepileptic agents.

A person taking a shower

Personal hygiene. Most cancer treatments produce dermatological changes. Therefore, skincare is very important throughout treatment. Cleanliness and hydration are essential during this period. Skin is usually more sensitive and vulnerable to infections, so it is important to incorporate routine hygiene, hydration and sunscreen habits for both the face and body. It is also important to maintain good oral hygiene to prevent irritations or lesions of the mucous membrane.

Symbol of man and woman

Sexual intercourse. Patients can still practice sex as long as they generally feel well enough. It is important for women of childbearing age to take contraceptive measures, as they should not get pregnant during treatment.

Person sleeping in a bed

Sleep. Patients should sleep between 6–8 hours. Patients should not worry if they sleep more during chemotherapy and the first month after surgery as the body is experiencing a stressful process and therefore may need more rest than usual. Bear in mind that older patients recover more slowly.

Cigarette crossed out on a "no smoking" poster

Smoking. Patients who smoke must quit as it aggravates the side effects associated with the treatments, decelerates tissue healing processes (in the case of surgical interventions), reduces appetite and decreases lung capacity. 

Flask and alternative therapies

Complementary therapies. Given the lack of solid evidence, patients should always check with their healthcare team beforehand.

Travelling by plane

Travelling. There are no contradictions against travelling for patients with cancer, the simply need to take into account the schedule for their chemotherapy sessions.

Substantiated information by:

Albert Tuca Rodríguez
Aleix Prat Aparicio
Francesc Balaguer Prunes
Meritxell Mollà Armandà
Montserrat Valverde Bosch
Vanessa Vilas
Álvaro Urbano Ispizua

Published: 12 November 2018
Updated: 20 November 2018

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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