Cancer survivors urged to eat better, exercise
At least two other medical groups have strongly recommended exercise and healthier eating for cancer survivors, but the cancer society's new guidelines are expected to have much greater impact. It's the nation's largest cancer charity in both donations and the number of volunteers, and it funds more cancer research than any other non-governmental agency.
There was a time when cancer patients were thought of as gaunt and dying souls. Many cancers were diagnosed at a late stage, after the disease had ravaged the body and caused weight loss.
But better screening and treatment has made early diagnosis of cancer more common and survival more likely. Today, more than two-thirds of cancer patients live at least five years. The ranks of cancer survivors have grown, with more than 12 million Americans identified as cancer survivors.
Meanwhile, obesity has boomed. More than two-thirds of U.S. adults are now considered overweight or obese.
The guidelines recognize that for some people just eating enough food is a priority, and that diet advice can vary during treatment. The cancer society also notes that some people may be too weak at times for vigorous exercise. But experts say that even modest activities, like lifting soup cans while watching TV, can help.
Women seem to take to exercise and diet recommendations more readily than men, or to push their spouses to follow the advice, some doctors said. Most of Reese's classmates were women.
"I find women to be very, very proactive," said Dr. Allen Lawhead, a gynecologic oncologist at DeKalb Medical Center. "Men, we traditionally go back into our man cave and hide."
Lawrence Genter, a survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, was one of three men in Reese's class of about a dozen. "I'm here because of my wife," he said.
For another cancer survivor, exercise came easy but eating healthy was a challenge. During chemotherapy, nausea is common and food can seem unappetizing.
"The key thing is to eat period — whatever you can get down and keep down," said Bob Falkenberg of Alpharetta, Ga., who was a marathoner and long-distance cyclist before he was diagnosed with leukemia.
What did he eat during chemo? Mexican food. Hamburgers.
"I had people bring in pizza at one point," he laughed.
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/