Phase 2: Recovery From Treatment
After treatment is completed, the nutrition and physical activity plan should help rebuild muscle strength, and correct problems such as anemia or impaired organ functioning. Adequate food intake and physical activity are crucial to the recovery phase.8-11
Sometimes, cancer treatment causes long-term problems, such as dysphagia, xerostomia, or malabsorption, that can make eating difficult and that can impair nutritional status, leading to persistent weight loss, muscle wasting, and nutrient deficiencies.
During this phase, survivors need a nutritionally balanced diet sufficient in caloric intake and sufficiently varied to provide adequate micronutrients (as specified in the ACS Guidelines for Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention).2
Recovery also requires physical activity to rebuild muscle strength. Cancer survivors with treatment-related complications or any other disabilities that interfere with diet and physical activity should be referred as needed to the appropriate health care provider to establish nutritional and activity goals.
Phase 3: Preventing Cancer Recurrence, Second Primary Cancers, and Nutrition-Related Disease
In general, there has been very little research on the nutritional factors that influence cancer recurrence. In the absence of such data, it seems reasonable, though, to recommend that cancer survivors follow carefully the guidelines for prevention defined by the ACS and others.2,4-7
The same factors that increase cancer incidence might also be important in promoting cancer recurrence after treatment. Data are most compelling for breast cancer, where the risk of recurrence might be increased by obesity and by diets high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables (see also section on breast cancer).
Prostate cancer recurrence might also be increased by high saturated fat intake, or reduced by micronutrient supplementation (see also section on prostate cancer).
In addition to the risk of recurrence of the primary cancer, survivors can be at increased risk for second primary cancers, either at the same site (e.g., contralateral breast cancer) or at other sites (e.g., lung cancer after oral cancer).
In addition to following guidelines for increased screening, chemoprevention, or surgical prevention for very high-risk second primaries (e.g., ovarian cancer following breast cancer in familial syndromes), following the ACS Guidelines for Diet and Cancer Prevention may be the most effective method for preventing the growth of second primary cancers.2
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