Making Cancer Survivorship Last: How Docs Can Help

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS; Kathleen Wolin, ScD


July 30, 2013

In This Article

Cancer Survivorship and Ways to Stay Healthy

Editor's Note: Lifestyle has a major influence on the health of cancer survivors. A new patient-oriented brochure, Cancer Survivors' 8ight Ways to Stay Healthy After Cancer, was developed by the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Medscape spoke with Kathleen Wolin, ScD, lead author of an article in Cancer Causes and Control[1] that describes the development of these 8 recommendations as a foundation for an evidence-based health-promotion program for cancer survivors.

Medscape: What are the 8 ways to stay healthy after cancer?

Dr. Wolin: The 8 recommendations are based on available epidemiologic and behavioral evidence, as well as on our previous work in cancer prevention and health communications. The 8 one-line messages for cancer survivors are:

1. Don't smoke

2. Avoid secondhand smoke

3. Exercise regularly

4. Avoid weight gain

5. Eat a healthy diet

6. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all

7. Stay connected with friends, family, and other survivors

8. Get screening tests and go to your regular check-ups

Medscape: What prompted you to publish these recommendations?

Dr. Wolin: Survival after a diagnosis of cancer and cancer treatment is increasing. The 5-year survival rate is nearly 65% for the 12 million cancer survivors in the United States, increasing to 95% for survivors of breast and prostate cancer, the 2 most common cancers.[2] These patients are at risk not only for recurrence of cancer and second malignancies, but also for long-term and late effects of treatment. Noncancer chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, also adversely affect the quality of life and survival in cancer patients. At the same time, there is a huge gap in care in terms of lifestyle management for cancer survivors, with data suggesting myriad challenges in helping cancer survivors to follow existing preventive guidelines.

The brochure for the prevention recommendations had been available in various healthcare settings for some time, and many people, especially patients, asked us whether we had a similar set of recommendations for people who already had a diagnosis of cancer. Or, they wondered, were the recommendations essentially the same? In the meantime, with increasing emphasis on cancer survivorship, the evidence base for lifestyle changes had been building rapidly, so the time was right to put together a set of recommendations for people who had survived cancer.


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