It is said time and time again. Diet and exercise is important. Studies suggest that the same is true for patients with cancer.

Diet, Exercise, and the Cancer Treatment Plan

 It is said time and time again. Diet and exercise is important. Studies suggest that the same is true for patients with cancer

Oren Cheifetz is a clinical specialist in oncology at Hamilton Health Sciences, a hospital in Ontario. He also runs CanWell—an education and exercise program for cancer patients in any stage of their journey.

He thinks exercise should be seen as a form of treatment that can work along-side traditional treatment plans that a doctor prescribes.

“There is very good evidence that exercise can help people with many different cancers in terms of improved quality of life, improved sleep and reduced pain. And of course, [exercise] improves strength and endurance,” Cheifetz says.

An American study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2012 finds that exercise increased survival rates for patients with colon and breast cancer.

While there is growing concrete evidence in support of exercise for some cancers, there is not the same research for blood cancers like lymphoma.

This is due, in part, by the complexity of the disease and the fact that cancers like breast cancer are studied more.

But Cheifetz recommends exercise for all cancer patients who are medically stable, regardless of diagnosis.

“I think exercise should be a regular component in the standard care for people with all types of cancers, including the hematological ones,” he says.


The foods a cancer patient eats can help too.

Rosie Schwartz, a registered dietitian, says that eating right can help maintain immune system function and well being during cancer treatments.

“Research is showing that nutrition has such a profound effect on a person’s health status,” she says. “There are thousands and thousands of compounds that come from plant foods that fight disease.”

Foods from the brassicas or the cruciferous families are particularly good for cancer fighting. Arugula, cauliflower and cabbage are all part of these families.

“Eating these foods not only helps maintain the status of this person but can actually kill cancer cells,” Schwartz says.

This is a process called apoptosis; when compounds in whole foods actually cause cancer-cell death Schwartz explains.

Schwartz is aware of the fact that a change in diet cannot replace traditional treatment plans.

“It is really important to recognize that nutrition or natural health remedies should not get in the way of a physician’s recommendation.”


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