After a cancer diagnosis, survivors have unique challenges in adjusting to their new lives.
There are new worries after cancer. Fatigue is a common ailment. And some patients have lifestyle questions – is it okay to exercise, are there foods that should be avoided?
A new clinical study at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center looks at improving lives post cancer diagnosis through exercise and nutrition.
The six-month study, which will be capped at 40 patients, helps survivors track exercise and nutrition. Research shows cancer survivors fare better if they stick to the recommended guidelines of eating a diet rich in plants and whole foods and 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of strenuous movement.
But chemotherapy treatments leave patients with a host of side effects – from weight gain or loss of appetite to more extreme – while less common – conditions like diabetes and secondary cancers.
This means exercising and eating healthy can often take a back seat after a cancer diagnosis.
“After a cancer diagnosis there are many side effects from the treatment that are both physical and emotional,” said Dr. Krishna Gunturu, an oncologist and Director of the Survivorship Clinic at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. “More people are surviving cancer and the goal of this study is to see how we can improve lives post-diagnosis.”
Studies have shown 70 percent of survivors do not follow the recommended guidelines, Gunturu said.
In the study, titled Effect of Multi-disciplinary Cancer Survivorship Clinic (MDSC) on following American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines, physical activity, nutrition and quality of life in Cancer Survivors, participants are given a Fitbit with heart monitor to track exercise.
They’re also responsible for journaling dietary choices. Then participants meet with health care professionals, including dietitians and psychologists who specialize in cancer, from the Survivorship Clinic at three and six months to go over progress and address any concerns.
The study opened last month and, so far, about five patients have enrolled. Once the inaugural cohort finishes the study, the Survivorship Clinic hopes to open it at other facilities.
“Our goal is to see at least 50 percent of patients meeting the guidelines for exercise and diet,” Gunturu said. “We feel this could make a big difference in the quality of life for many survivors.”
For more information on our cancer services, check out the Lahey Health Cancer Institute.