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Lifestyle interventions dramatically increase survival rates in cancer survivors

Lifestyle interventions dramatically increase survival rates in cancer survivors

Good news for breast cancer survivors: Lifestyle intervention can improve your life. A study presented at the 2018 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium revealed that participating in a lifestyle intervention program helps survivors of early-stage breast cancer to lose weight and experience higher rates of disease-free survival.

“Many breast cancer survivors would like to contribute actively to improving their prognosis, and guiding them on lifestyle factors that can help them control weight is one possible way to positively impact patient outcomes,” said Dr. Wolfgang Janni, the study’s lead author of the study and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Ulm in Germany.

For the study, Janni and his team examined 2,292 women enrolled in the German SUCCESS C study. All participants had a body mass index (BMI) of 24 or higher. While a BMI of 24 is still considered within a healthy weight range, going any higher is already considered overweight. Earlier studies have reported that obesity and not having enough exercise are linked to higher risks of developing breast cancer and a greater risk of recurrence and reduced survival.

The participants either received telephone-based, personalized guidance focused on helping them attain moderate weight loss for two years or general recommendations for a healthy lifestyle. Those who received the telephone calls received advice on how to improve their diets, reduce their fat consumption, get more exercise, and other tips that were adjusted to their particular needs.

After two years of follow-up, those who received personalized lifestyle intervention tips lost an average of 2.2 pounds, while those in the control group gained about 2.1 pounds, on average. Only 1,477 participants completed the lifestyle intervention, and these participants experienced a 35 percent higher rate of disease-free survival compared to those who started the program but did not complete it. Moreover, those who received the telephone calls had a 50 percent higher chance of surviving disease-free compared to the control group. The results were similar even after the researchers compared other factors that could influence the outcomes.

From these findings, it can be concluded that lifestyle interventions might be effective in improving breast cancer prognosis if adherence is high.

Living well after cancer

Cancer survivors often have the fear of recurrence, which may also lead to stress, depression and anxiety, and loneliness. Here are some tips on how to live well after surviving cancer:

  • Reflect: Cancer survivors often find a new way of living, although this may take some time. Assess your life and ask yourself questions like what fulfills you, what is important to you, or what gives your life meaning. Try to keep a journal and write down how you are feeling.
  • Take care of yourself: Focus on keeping yourself healthy by eating a healthy diet and exercising, but remember not to push yourself too much. These will help your body recover and put your mind at ease. (Related: Cancer survivors are turning to a raw, organic vegan lifestyle to live cancer-free.)
  • Relax: Avoid stressing yourself too much. Do something that relaxes you. It may be reading, listening to music, taking a bath, or practicing yoga.
  • Acknowledge your feelings and talk to someone about it: Do not keep your emotions to yourself. Instead, share your worries or concerns with people you trust.

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