Lifestyle Changes to Enhance Cancer Survivorship
Grace Gawler discusses Lifestyle Medicine for Cancer Patients
Can lifestyle changes enhance cancer survivorship?
I have spent 47 years exploring the connection between significant lifestyle change and cancer outcomes.
Most people believe changing lifestyle is only about changing your diet.
Lifestyle and health is influenced by many factors:
How we live, the health promoting choices we make, environmental challenges including chemical exposures, viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, the air we breathe, our social fabric & connections, economic status, and behavioural factors.
Lifestyle change can even cultural, religious, or be in conflicts with spiritual beliefs.
Many patients are unaware how changing lifestyle may impact social, family and community circles.
Lifestyle changes - stressful for some, empowering for others
It is imperative to be aware that whenever human beings make lifestyle changes and in particular dietary changes; the impact can flow through many areas of your life affecting your psychology, emotions, and mental state which are inextricably connected with way of life – lifestyle.
This is why making changes in diet and lifestyle; especially rapid or radical change, causes most cancer patients to feel overwhelmed and confused.
In addition, a diagnosis of cancer can instigate fear which in turn becomes the accelerant for change rather than a healthier desire and yearning for a new way of life.
For some people change equals excitement, motivation, and adventure whilst for others it means fear and fear of change itself, a loss of the familiar.
It is helpful for cancer patients to think about the impacts of change and to discuss with family, friends or their counsellor.
I encourage cancer patients who are wanting to embrace lifestyle medicine as a part of their health restoration plan to be discerning, well-informed and to do their due diligence before making decisions about significant lifestyle changes to enhance cancer recovery.
In my experience, lifestyle change can impact cancer outcome and survivorship. With guidance and support such as offered on our survivorship care plans you can make the right decisions assisted by nutritional gene testing. No more guesswork
My original work at the Yarra Valley living Centre in Victoria was lifestyle focused. This work evolved from patients’ needs learned from the experience of conducting cancer support groups. The groups were an Australian first.
The following is not meant to discourage you from making positive lifestyle changes, but I encourage you to be realistic about your expectations.
Here is what I learned
Lifestyle changes can significantly improve quality of life, well being, and in some cases, even assist with pain management.
However; this does not necessarily equate with curing your cancer.
I have seen many patients who have implemented lifestyle changes and who are living well despite having active cancer.
Patients can often mistake this sense of well-being for remission.
Whilst it is inspiring that lifestyle changes can improve quality of life, the downside is that this can lead to complacency and less attention to medical treatments, regular check ups, scans etc.
Causes of cancer are not only lifestyle related
I have 1000s of patient questionnaire records that date back almost 40 years. The records accurately document patient’s lifestyle influences and choices.
These patients were not overweight; they report that they had looked after their health and had reasonably balanced diets.
This differs from the widely publicised demographic of being overweight, history of physical inactivity, poor nutrition, smoking, alcohol overconsumption, anxiety, inadequate sleep and other known causes of cancer.
One important observation, is that over the previous decade, patients of a much younger age are requesting my assistance. These ages now range from mid-20s to mid-40s; something that would have been rare during the first 3 decades of my work.
These patients have included vegetarians, vegans, ketogenic followers, meat eaters etc – patients who had consumed all types of diets.
Few had smoked previously – if they had smoked it was often for short period during their youth. The majority were occasional consumers of alcohol – but many did not drink alcohol at all. Many had high exercise regimens – competitive bike riders, runners, athletes from many disciplines, hikers etc.
It is plausible to hypothesise that alongside environmental and inherited influences; many different stressors may play a significant role in the pathway to a diagnosis of cancer.
The utilisation of genomic testing has been able to pinpoint more specifically the mutations that exist in each individual as a cause of their cancer.
New tests pinpoint lifestyle changes that can be effective
Gene Testing can now determine how each individual metabolises their diet; a new and exciting era of personalised lifestyle medicine. The test, using a simple mouth swab, is ideal for cancer patients wanting to optimise their diet, lifestyle and exercise programs according to their genes. No more guesswork! Highly recommended!
Genomic and genetic testing is closer to determining the cause of cancer in each individual at the molecular level. Results from these tests forms the basis of personalised or precision medicine.
Want to know more about how genomic or gene testing can help you? Please refer to genomic DNA tests on the main menu.