Lifestyle planning

Lifestyle planning

a) Lifestyle as a risk factor
b) Living with cancer
c) Life after cancer treatment

a) Lifestyle as a cancer risk factor

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 30 percent of all cancer cases in western countries are associated with poor diet and insufficient exercise.
It is assumed that overweight – and particularly obesity – is at least partly responsible for 20 percent of all cancer deaths among women. Worldwide, physical inactivity and its consequences result in 3.2 million deaths: 34% of all women with cancer are classed as physically inactive.

Recommendation for cancer prevention

A review paper published in top medical journal The Lancet recommends the following measures as a prevention of cancer:
a balanced diet
prevention of obesity
reduced alcohol consumption
daily physical exercise

World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research

• At least 30 minutes of active exercise every day, such as brisk walking

As fitness improves, aim for at least 60 minutes of active exercise a day or 30 minutes of vigorous activity, such as running or weight training

b) Living with cancer


We cannot combat, let alone cure cancer by diet alone. That is not to say that cancer patients cannot improve their general constitution and therefore their quality of life. An ideal diet improves the body’s ability to cope with the treatment, helps reduce its side-effects and supports recovery.
Since treatment can have adverse side-effects that can also impair food intake, patients must usually change their eating habits, both to ensure a balanced diet and to reduce the side-effects of the treatment.
A balanced diet aims to prevent malnutrition and deficiencies, improve the body’s tolerance of the treatment, strengthen the immune system and promote recovery.

• Avoiding malnutrition

It is important to avoid nutritional deficiencies and to take up enough calories for the body to have plenty of energy to cope with the treatment.
Because both the disease itself and its treatment can result in a loss of appetite, it is important to immediately take advantage of every feeling of hunger or peckishness. Meals should be prepared to be as appetising as possible and snacks in between main meals are also recommended. Clear broths, certain spices – basil, parsley, coriander, ginger and juniper – and bitter foods like grapefruit promote appetite and are therefore valuable. If agreed with the doctor, you can take an aperitif as an appetiser before meals.
To help the body better convert the food into energy, you can refine or garnish meals with butter, cream, sour cream or crème fraîche. Additional calories can be taken between meals in the form of high-energy snacks – such as puddings, shakes, biscuits, crisps or chocolate – and drinks, including fruit juices and soft drinks.

• Diet during chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Chemo- and radiotherapy usually cause nausea and vomiting. In addition to taking medication, these side-effects can be countered by adapting your eating habits. Eating slowly and thorough chewing aids the digestion and helps relieve the stomach. Tight-fitting and constricting clothing should be avoided. Regular, deep breathing also helps, especially when feeling nauseous. You should also avoid smells that you perceive as unpleasant.

• Avoid risks of infection

When the immune system is weakened due to the illness and the treatment, it is especially important to minimise the strain on it, as this would further increase the risk of infection. A low-germ diet is therefore important,
and hygiene and cleanliness in the kitchen also contribute to keeping germs away from the body. It is advisable to empty waste bins regularly (ideally every day) and to keep kitchen appliances (stove, microwave, oven and fridge) clean. Chopping boards, work surfaces, cutlery and crockery must always be thoroughly cleaned and tea towels, rags and sponges should be changed as often as possible. Making sure your hands are always clean is also important. Food should always be as fresh as possible, stored in a cool place and not be eaten after its use-by date. Cook food gently and thoroughly, always serving it well done. If you do eat raw food, make sure you wash it thoroughly. Foods such as poultry, fish and eggs, which can contain salmonella, should be stored and prepared separately from other foods.

Recommendations for cancer treatment

• A balanced diet
• Sufficient intake of calories
• Low-germ foods

Physical exercise
• Physical activity has a positive effect on the body

Physical exercise achieves a number of positive effects for cancer patients: it improves performance, strengthens the muscles, enhances quality of life and reduces tiredness (fatigue) as well as fear. For various cancers, physical activity is therefore recommended already during treatment.

Reduction of side effects

During chemotherapy, side effects such as fatigue and tiredness can be reduced through exercise, for example with a bed pedal exerciser. The side effects of surgery, too, can be reduced through exercise.

Recommendations for cancer treatment

World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research

• At least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, such as brisk walking

c) Diet after cancer

Thanks to advances in the treatment of cancer over the past few decades, about 60 percent of adult cancer patients survive, in most cases tumour-free. Healed patients and patients with diminishing complaints are advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of a recurrence of the cancer. This includes a balanced diet, avoiding excess weight, eating a high proportion of plant foods and a low proportion of animal-based foods (except for fish), and keeping off alcohol. Regular physical exercise and not smoking are, of course, also important.

Recommendations for diet after cancer

NCCN – National Comprehensive Cancer Network
Diet rich in plant foods
• Fruit
• Whole grains
• Fish
• Poultry
• Tofu
• Vitamin D
• Low alcohol consumption
• Avoiding excess weight

Physical activity after cancer

Sports and physical exercise enhance the quality of life of cancer patients in several ways: They promote general health and strengthen the immune system, and they help re-establish an awareness of and trust in your body. They also teach you to cope with or overcome the limitations in your physical strength and endurance.
The relationship between exercise and cancer has been investigated in numerous scientific studies in recent years.

Reduced relapse rate

Investigations of the past decade show strong evidence for an improved recovery rate and a reduced rate of recurrence in patients with breast and colorectal cancer.

Recommendations for exercising after cancer

World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research

At least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, such as brisk walking

• As fitness improves, aim for at least 60 minutes of active exercise a day or 30 minutes of vigorous activity, such as running or weight training


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