Cancer is not just one disease. It can develop anywhere in the body. Cancer starts when cells grow quickly and crowd out normal cells, making it hard for your body to work the way it should. Many cancers are similar but grow and spread differently.

Cancer can have many possible causes, like habits, genetics, and environmental factors. Sometimes, there is no obvious cause. For many people, cancer can be treated successfully.

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If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it’s important that you work with your doctor on a treatment plan and to ask questions. Your treatment plan will be unique to you. The American Cancer Society has compiled several tools to help navigate your treatment and recovery.

Many groups have also developed Survivorship Care Plans to help improve the quality of care of survivors as they move beyond their treatment.

Here are some things you can do that can help you live a healthy life.

Your doctor will work with you on a treatment plan for the type of cancer that you have. Your treatment will depend on the type of cancer you have, the stage and grade of the cancer, where it is in your body, the chance that a type of treatment will help, your age and overall health, and how you feel about the treatment and its side effects. The main types of treatment for cancer are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation treatments
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drugs
  • Immunotherapy drugs

It’s important to ask as many questions about your cancer and the treatment options available to you. This guide from the American Cancer Society has more information on the cancer, the types of treatment, and questions you can ask your doctor.

During treatment

If you’re being treated for cancer, there are many things you can do to live well during treatment – from eating the right foods to caring for your appearance.

Nutrition is important. Eating healthy foods before, during, and after treatment can help you feel good and stay strong. Cancer treatment can affect the way you eat. You may need to change your diet during treatment. Your care team can help you identify your nutrition goals and plan ways to help you meet them.

You should also aim to be as physically active as possible during treatment, which can help improve your mood and self-esteem and how your body functions. Your exercise program should be based on what’s safe and what works best for you. Your doctor can let you know what type of exercise program is best.

Cancer as a chronic condition

Cancer can be treated, but sometimes it doesn’t go away. You might be receiving treatment that stops the cancer from growing or spreading, but it’s still in your body. Cancer can be a recurring chronic condition like asthma or diabetes.

You might hear your doctor use word like controlled or stable to describe your cancer. In this case, the cancer will be monitored to be sure it doesn’t start growing. Your cancer may also go into remission, which means the tumor has gone away or reduced in size for at least one month.

Living with chronic cancer can be difficult. Here are some things you can do to keep a good quality of life.

Learn how to manage your medicine. Be sure to take medicine exactly as your doctor prescribes. You can ask friends or family to help you stay on track or set a daily alarm on your watch, clock, or phone so you can remember to take your medicine at the same time and place each day. Keep a list of your medicines and make an appointment with your doctor to get a new prescription before you run out.

Go for your follow-up visits. Seeing your care team regularly will improve your peace of mind and your chances of finding any recurrence early. The earlier cancer is found, the easier it is to treat. Let your doctor and care team know how you’re feeling and discuss any concerns you may have. Be sure to get any tests your doctor recommends.

Make healthy lifestyle changes. If you smoke, try quitting. Limit your alcohol consumption, eat a healthy, balanced diet, manage your stress levels, and be physically active.

A cancer diagnosis can bring with it feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear. These feelings are normal, and everyone copes differently.

We recommend using the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) coping checklist, which can help you learn whether or not certain coping methods are helpful for you. Consider joining ACS’s Cancer Survivor’s Network, a vibrant community of those whose lives have been affected by cancer. It’s a resource where you can share coping skills with others, get support, and find answers to questions about cancer, treatment, and relationships.

Find cancer support programs and services in your area.

It might be helpful to talk with a mental health professional. Your doctor can recommend one for you and may know of a local support group as well.

Along with your doctor and care team, it’s important to talk to your family and friends about your cancer. Sharing your experience with people who understand what you’re going through can be helpful. You can start by identifying who you want to share your condition with and what you want to share. If it will help, keep a journal of the things you want to talk about.

Remember to always ask your doctor about screenings, treatment options, and other resources available to you. If you’re cancer is stable or in remission, keep in close contact with your care team and go for all your scheduled follow-up appointments. Ask your doctor about support services and advance health care directives (a legal document that tells your health care provider and loved ones your wishes about your health care).


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