In the US alone, according to the American Cancer Society, there are roughly 17 million cancer survivors and it’s estimated to grow to over 22.1 million by 2030. The month of June is designated as National Cancer Survivor Month, and with numbers climbing annually, it’s important to understand the obstacles facing this growing community. While we happily celebrate their anniversaries and mileposts, cancer survivors must learn to steer their unfamiliar course in life with a new set of challenges.
Nothing could be better than hearing for the first time that one is now cancer-free, but what happens next? One of the most important aspects of cancer survivorship is continuing to have their support system intact. With the possibility of further physical, emotional, and financial hardships, an uninterrupted support system would provide the continuity needed to help meet their needs.
One of the specific needs a cancer survivor has is cancer rehabilitation. To help the survivor cope with learning to do as much as they can on their own they will often seek out specialists in this area, oftentimes being their doctor, nurse, social worker, physical therapist, or occupational therapist, as stated by the American Cancer Society. Generally, the rehabilitation process can be long and arduous with outcomes presenting slowly and potentially discouraging. Having a solid support system with encouragement and reinforcement could make their recovery more effective.
Two more important factors in a successful survivorship are nutrition and exercise. From diagnosis and treatment continuing into survivorship, these two components must be sustained in order for the survivor to feel stronger and to rebuild a healthier body. Historically, patients seen for a chronic illness were advised to rest and decrease their physical exercise, but new studies have found that safe exercises during and after cancer treatments can increase both the physical rebuilding as well as the quality of life.
The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors take these actions:
- Take part in regular physical activity.
- Avoid inactivity and return to normal daily activities as soon as possible after diagnosis.
- Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.
- Include strength training exercises at least 2 days per week.
As with any physical activity, there are precautions for cancer survivors who want to exercise; make sure to consult a physician before beginning any physical or exercise program.
Understanding the cancer survivors’ special requirements are key to their success; to learn more about cancer survivorship support, please visit the American Cancer Society.