Looking for a better quality of life

Long-Term Follow-Up

Looking for a better quality of life

There are 12 million cancer survivors in the United States today. And they all want the best possible quality of life.

Summer 2010

Earlier this year, The New York Times published a collage of stories and photos from its readers—men and women who were moving beyond cancer.

The piece in the science section was titled a Second Life, and indeed it was, as readers answered the question “How is life different after cancer?”

The collage was a wonderful tribute to cancer survivors, and the many photos underscored an important point: cancer survivors were living their lives fully engaged, running through deserts, riding their bikes, exploring, spending time with family and friends.

One reader told the Times: “Prior to my diagnosis, a new family wasn’t even on the horizon. Post-cancer, things have changed. I’m truly experiencing life—not just living it.” You can find the story online here.

Many of our own patients who have been featured on the pages of this newsletter have much in common with readers who answered the question in the Times. In this issue, we feature yet another survivor who is grabbing life by the horns.

For cancer survivors—nearly 12 million in the United States alone—how to live longer and healthier lives has become an important issue. For them, it’s no longer enough to survive. They want a better quality of life.
The good news is that there’s a growing body of evidence—backed by many studies—that indeed there’s much survivors can do, even as they get older, to live happier and healthier lives.

In this issue of LTFU, we give you some pointers, starting with our Q&A on page 2 dealing with the importance of exercise after cancer treatment.

And exercise, as it turns out, is being touted as tremendously important for recovering cancer patients. In June of this year, a panel of 13 researchers convened by the American College of Sports Medicine concluded that staying active is one of the best things cancer survivors can do to stay healthy.

The researchers—with expertise in cancer, fitness, obesity and exercise training—came together to develop guidelines on exercise and physical activity for patients going through cancer treatment and for those who have already completed their treatment.

In a National Cancer Institute (NCI) bulletin published last month, Dr. Rachel Ballard-Barbash, a member of the NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, said the evidence linking physical activity with improved quality of life for cancer patients “is incredibly strong.” And it’s more so for patients who have already completed their treatments.

“Even a modest amount of exercise, like brief walks, is beneficial, and we see gains versus doing nothing at all,” Ballard-Barbash said in the NCI bulletin. For more on this story, visit, www.cancer.gov/ncicancerbulletin.
In another front, The National Institute on Aging (NIA) said people should not ignore their mental health as they get older. It cited a recent study that concluded that people who don’t participate as much as others in social activities are more likely to experience a more rapid decline of motor function in old age.

The latest research, the NIA said, has shown that participating in “social and productive activities are powerful tools to staying young.” Volunteering, playing games, indulging in hobbies and participating in social groups (canasta, anyone?) may have a positive effect, according to the Institute. For more tips, visit its website at www.nia.nih.gov.