National Cancer Survivors Day

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3 Steps toward Survivorship


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Incorporating just three easy steps into a daily routine can increase a person with cancer’s chance at sur­vival, according to a physician who specializes in cancer survivorship.

“It’s not enough to help a patient through the management of pain, sleep deprivation, and cognitive challenges as a result of treatment,” says Arash Asher, md, director of the Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship pro­gram at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Insti­tute in Los Angeles, CA. He views his role as supporting survivors through the entire spectrum of cancer – from diagnosis to survivorship – and the many hurdles in between. “Our approach is to help each patient find meaning through the journey they’ve been given and provide tactical ways to improve their chance at survivorship and overall quality of life.”

To mark National Cancer Survivors Day, Dr. Asher put together his top three tips for cancer survivorship:

1 Avoid social isolation and chronic loneliness.
Chronic loneliness can change a cancer survivor’s biological makeup, possibly increasing the chance of recurrence, Dr. Asher says. In fact, according to Dr. Asher, chronic loneliness is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes and is more dangerous than physical inactivity or obesity. If people surround themselves with positive and supportive friends and relatives, how­ever, they can increase their longevity and quality of life.

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Dr. Arash Asher

2 Engage in tailored, moderate exercise.
Exercise offers myriad benefits to any individual, but may be even more valuable to cancer survivors. Unfortunately, fewer than 50 percent of cancer survivors achieve their pre-cancer level of exercise, and many never talk about physical activity with their physicians. Dr. Asher suggests that just like the benefits of a support system, exercise may improve the quality and quantity of life for cancer survivors.

3 Get enough sleep.
Americans often view sleep as a luxury, and rest is one of the first things to be sacrificed if time doesn’t permit. Dr. Asher says that not getting enough sleep has serious conse­quences, including chronic illness and possibly an increased risk of cancer. Multiple studies have found that nightshift work­ers have a higher percentage of breast, colon, and prostate cancer, as well as cognitive issues, and a higher risk of obesity and physical limitations. Half of all cancer survivors have some form of insomnia. It’s important to determine the cause of insomnia and then take tactical steps toward managing these issues.

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This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, July/August 2013.