First, understand that you did not cause your cancer. However, you can improve your health so that cancer cannot grow as easily in your body. We know that certain exposures or lifestyle choices may support cancer growth. Worldwide, an estimated 44.4% of cancer deaths are attributed to risk factors that you may have some control over:1GBD 2019 Cancer Risk Factors Collaborators. The global burden of cancer attributable to risk factors, 2010-19: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Lancet. 2022 Aug 20;400(10352):563-591.
- Behavioral factors include use of tobacco or alcohol, poor diet, low physical activity, and more
- Environmental and occupational factors include occupational exposures, air pollution, and other exposures
- Metabolic risk factors include overweight or obesity and high blood sugar
Many of the risk factors associated with cancer are also risk factors for other diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and neurocognitive disease.2The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency, Western States Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit. A Story of Health E-Book. Accessed from the Collaborative on Health and the Environment September 20, 2021.
Taking control of your health
Your treatment plan may include surgery, radiation, or drugs to treat your cancer. Although these therapies are designed to eliminate most of the cancer cells, they are not designed to keep cancer from returning. Usually some cancer cells survive, and we must count on our own internal anticancer defenses to kill the remaining cells and keep cancer from recurring. We need to meet conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy cancer treatment where it leaves off, letting healthy lifestyle practices carry the baton from there.
The power of adopting a healthy lifestyle is in making your body less supportive of cancer and other diseases. Cancer does not occur at random, nor does it grow in isolation. It develops within an environment that is either more or less supportive of cancer, depending on several factors, including our individual body terrains—our internal environments.
How we interact with the environment around us can influence our body terrainthe internal conditions of your body, including nutritional status, fitness, blood sugar balance, hormone balance, inflammation and more—what we eat and drink, what we breathe in, how we respond to stressors, and what we are exposed to, including viruses and bacteria, chemicals, radiation, and sounds.
Some of these factors may be beyond your control, but you may be able to make some changes to make your body a less hospitable place for cancer to thrive going forward. Self care is about identifying those areas you can influence or change, and then finding support for making whatever changes you choose. It is also about doing what nourishes you. What brings you healing, joy and vibrancy.
Your choices in self care
Self care in cancer refers to health-promoting lifestyle choices and practices that
- You can implement largely on your own at low or no cost
- Can powerfully enhance the quality of your life
- Can make you a healthier, more resilient person
- Are supported by evidence
These practices are accepted by professionals across the medical spectrum, but they may not be emphasized enough in your conventional care.
Self care in cancer includes the 7 Healing Practices › and healthy lifestyle choices ›. All are grounded in Exploring What Matters Now ›. These are powerful tools to help you care for yourself proactively and to rebuild your health. Self care and complementary carein cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture can be intertwined, as many complementary therapies can be used to support self care.
Choose practices that appeal to you
We offer a wide array of options for you to consider, similar to an appetizer tray circulating at a party. Do what you are drawn to. We’re here to help you take whatever steps you choose to build your health and resilience.
Words of guidance
Read some words of inspiration and guidance on self care and the cancer journey from Michael Lerner, CancerChoices co-founder and author of Choices in Healing.
|1||GBD 2019 Cancer Risk Factors Collaborators. The global burden of cancer attributable to risk factors, 2010-19: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Lancet. 2022 Aug 20;400(10352):563-591.|
|2||The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency, Western States Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit. A Story of Health E-Book. Accessed from the Collaborative on Health and the Environment September 20, 2021.|