Lifestyle Changes to Manage Pancreatic Cancer
You can make changes in your life that will:
- Strengthen your body so you can take some of the rigors of treatment
- Boost your immune system so it can help your body fight the cancer
- Help with your emotional outlook; this will let you enjoy life to the fullest
- Help keep you from having other health problems
Smoking raises the risk of other health problems. It slows healing and causes further damage to the pancreas.
When you quit smoking, the body heals itself right away. Quitting will help boost your immune system to help fight the cancer. It will help you feel better while you’re getting treated. It will also lower your risk of future cancers.
Eating the right foods will help your overall health, energy, mood, and how fast you can get better. Treating this type of cancer may make it harder for you to eat. Talk with a dietitian who can help you plan meals. You need to be able to get the most from the foods you eat and to stop weight loss. To help you with this, your doctor may have you take pills that will help you digest foods.
You may need a feeding tube. This is a way for your body to get the nutrients it needs if you have problems eating. It lets nutritional mixes be delivered straight to the stomach.
Lower Your Risk of Infection
Cancer and how it’s treated slow the body's immune system. This can raise the risk of infection. It also makes common infections more serious. To lower your infection risk:
- Wash hands fully and often. Hand washing is the best way of preventing colds and the flu. Carry hand sanitizer for times when washing can't be done.
- Try to stay away from crowds, mainly during cold and flu season.
- Try not to touch your eyes, mouth, and nose after touching other surfaces or objects.
- Clean and sanitize surfaces and objects often.
- Ask your doctor about getting vaccines to protect against the flu and pneumonia.
If you haven't been exercising, check with your doctor to choose safe exercises. Even light exercise can help you feel better. It will also make you feel better during times of stress.
Exercise will boost your:
- Immune system
- Spirits and make your outlook better
Don't start any exercise program until you talk to your doctor.
Feeling very tired is the most common with cancer and how it’s treated. To help from getting overtired, list your tasks and focus on what needs to be done first. Let others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and making meals. Make sure to plan to get rest when you need to.
You will also feel more tired if you’re not eating right. Talk to your doctor if your tiredness is making it hard for you to get through the day.
Finding out you have cancer is a major event that can be hard to handle. Facing a serious illness, feeling anxious about treatment, changes in your life, and worrying about cancer’s impact can be overwhelming. You will need to rely on family, friends, and other people in your life. People who seek help when they have cancer can often keep better emotional balance. Other sources of support are:
- Religious community
- Support groups for people with your type of cancer
- Professional support from social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists who are trained to help support cancer patients and their families
Family and caregivers may also need support. Have them seek support groups or counseling geared toward them.
Pancreatic cancer is mainly found in later stages, making it harder to treat. Some people choose ways to ease related health problems or to stop treatment completely. It may be realistic to begin end-of-life planning. This may mean:
- Choosing home or hospice care
- Financial decisions
- Advance directives—includes legal issues, like wills, hospital orders for your care, and power of attorney for medical care and finances
- Insurance coverage
If you need guidance, talk to a member of your healthcare team. You can be referred to an expert who can guide you through the process.
- Advance directives. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/finding-and-paying-for-treatment/understanding-financial-and-legal-matters/advance-directives.html. Accessed October 3, 2020.
- Living well during treatment. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/staying-active.html. Accessed October 3, 2020.
- Pancreatic cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114527/Pancreatic-cancer. Accessed October 3, 2020.
- Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
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