After treatment, many people ask what they can do to stay in remission. While there are no certain answers, it is a good idea to lead a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy lifestyle can:
- help you enjoy your day-to-day life
- lower your risk of getting late complications of treatment
- help you to cope physically with any treatment you might need in the future
- lower your risk of developing other serious illnesses in the future
- help with your physical and emotional recovery.
Generally, the advice for staying healthy is the same for someone affected by lymphoma as it is for anyone else. Your GP can offer guidance about leading a healthy lifestyle. You may also be able to contact your key worker about this even after you finish your treatment.
Remember to attend all regular routine health tests that you are offered, such as checks for high blood pressure and for breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening. Speak to your medical team for advice about coping with any side effects of the treatment you have had.
Your weight may have changed during your treatment for lymphoma. You might have gained weight as a result of having steroids along with your chemotherapy. Or you might have lost weight because of the combined effects of your lymphoma and not being able to eat properly during your treatment. Your aim should be to return to a healthy weight gradually over a few months.
The NHS Choices website has a lot of information about lifestyle and advice about how to reach a healthy weight.
If you are concerned about your weight, talk to your GP. Ask them what your goal weight should be and how best to reach and maintain this.
Good nutrition is important for your recovery. A healthy diet is:
- high in fibre, fruit and vegetables
- low in saturated fat, sugar and salt.
Fish and white meats are healthier than red and processed meats.
Macmillan Cancer Support also produces information about healthy eating for people living with or after cancer, including a booklet called Healthy eating and cancer.
Staying active during and after treatment can reduce fatigue and help with your recovery and overall wellbeing. It can also help you get a restful night’s sleep and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise doesn’t have to be expensive – gardening, walking, and even climbing stairs can all help. The important thing is keeping up the strength in your muscles. Otherwise, it can become harder to do simple things as time goes on.
Speak to your medical team or your GP to find a suitable type of exercise. Changes in your blood count may affect what is safe for you. For example, swimming pools and public gyms could expose you to lots of germs. This could cause an infection if your white cell count is low. Strenuous exercise (such as jogging or squash) and contact sports (like rugby and judo) may increase your risk of bruises if your platelet count is low.
Macmillan Cancer Support gives information and ideas about how to become more active, including a free exercise DVD you can use at home.
Drinking a lot of alcohol increases the risk of health problems and can lead to weight gain. Drinkaware is a charity that provides information and guidance about alcohol, its effects, and how to cut down the amount you drink.
Smoking can slow your recovery and significantly increase your risk of another cancer in the future, especially if you had radiotherapy. As well as quitting if you are a smoker, try to avoid breathing in other people’s smoke.
Talk to your GP or pharmacist for advice on quitting. There are lots of suggestions on the NHS website about different ways to quit.
Stress is a feeling of being under pressure to such an extent that we feel unable to cope well. It is normal to have some stress in our lives, but too much can have an impact on our physical and mental health.
It might be possible to stop some of the things that cause you stress, or at least to limit them. You could also build things into your life to help ease stress such as making time for yourself, going for walks, and spending time with the people who help you to feel positive.
Finding time each day to relax can help you feel more in control and less anxious. There is evidence to suggest that relaxation can help with fatigue, low mood, anxiety and depression.
Relaxation is something that many people find difficult. There are lots of books, CDs, DVDs and websites that have exercises to help you find techniques to relax. Relaxation is a part of many complementary therapies, for example aromatherapy and massage.
There is some evidence that yoga (a mind–body exercise using physical poses and meditation) can help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
You can read more about yoga and find a class near you on the NHS Choices website.
Mindfulness is another technique that many people find helpful. By heightening our awareness, encouraging us to slow down and pay attention to our experiences, mindfulness is thought to improve mental wellbeing.
You can read more about mindfulness on the NHS Choices website.
Some chemotherapy drugs (eg dacarbazine, vinblastine and methotrexate) can make your skin sensitive to sun damage, especially if you have fair skin.
Radiotherapy can also make the skin on the irradiated area more sensitive. This can last for months or even years – ask your medical team whether this applies to you.
Take precautions to stay safe in the sun – stick to the shade, cover your skin, and use sun blocks that have a high SPF (sun protection factor).
Cancer Research UK run a campaign called SunSmart, which gives advice to help you stay safe in the sun.
Many people use complementary therapies alongside their lymphoma treatment. Although there is no evidence to prove that complementary therapies can help with a particular problem, some research suggests that they may lower anxiety and improve relaxation.
Many people say complementary therapies make them feel better generally but, as far as we are aware, there is no one type that particularly helps people with lymphoma. If you are interested in complementary therapies, it will be a case of trying out a few that appeal to you.
When choosing a complementary therapy, it’s important to:
- discuss it with your medical team or your GP first to check that it’s safe for you
- make sure your complementary therapist is qualified and registered with a professional organisation – you should be able to find out their qualifications and professional membership on their website or in promotional materials such as their leaflets. Ask your medical team for guidance if you’re unsure
- think about cost – usually you would need to organise and pay for complementary therapies yourself, although some hospitals do offer this treatment
- tell the therapist that you have had treatment for lymphoma – you could ask about their experience of treating other people with cancer.
NHS Choices has more information about healthy living.
Macmillan cancer support produce information about exercise for people living with or after cancer.