Healthy Foods & Physical Activity
Improving diet and exercising is especially important for adult survivors of pediatric cancer. Having had pediatric cancer may increase your risk for other conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. This increase in risk sometimes results from the treatment you received causing metabolic changes in your body.
A general definition of a physically active lifestyle is engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, on five or more days of the week for 45 to 60 minutes. Common diet recommendations include eating five or more servings of vegetables and fruits a day and limiting the intake of red meats. If your cancer and its treatment have left you with physical limitations, consult your physician to find out which forms of exercise are best for you.
Scheduling regular follow-up appointments with a physician that is knowledgeable about pediatric cancers and protocols is a great place to start. At these follow-up appointments your physician can screen you for late effects specific to your type of cancer and the treatment you received. He or she can also provide you with diet and exercise recommendations tailored to your specific needs.
Below are sources of information on potential late effects of cancer treatment and guidelines for follow-up care:
- Beyond the Cure: Late Effects Assessment Tool
- Children's Oncology Group: Long-Term Follow-Up guidelines
- CureSearch for Children's Cancer
- National Cancer Institute: Follow-Up Medical Care After Cancer Treatment
Safe Sun Exposure
Even in the general population too much UV ray exposure can cause skin cancer. It is recommended that survivors of pediatric cancer take extra steps to protect themselves from UV rays since they are at an increased risk of developing a second cancer. These steps can be as simple as using enough sunscreen, wearing a hat, and wearing sunglasses.
- American Cancer Society: Be Safe in the Sun
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Skin Cancer - Prevention
Limiting Alcohol & Tobacco Use
This is a common recommendation for people that suffer from a variety of chronic illnesses. It is particularly important for survivors of pediatric cancer to limit their alcohol and tobacco intake because these drugs can actually increase your risk for secondary cancer. They can also increase the risk for or severity of some late effects; such as cardiovascular disease or impaired pulmonary functioning.
It is generally recommended that survivors do not smoke or have more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Survivorship Care Plans
A survivorship care plan is a document prepared by your physician that includes the important details of your cancer, treatment for cancer, and guidelines for follow-up care. It is important to obtain a copy of your past medical records so that your physician can create an accurate care plan based on your treatment history. You can request your medical records by contacting the medical records department at the hospital where you were treated for your cancer. If the hospital no longer has your medical records or you cannot access them for other reasons, you should inform your physician.
Survivorship care plans are instrumental when survivors of pediatric cancer transition from their pediatric oncologist to an adult health care provider. They are also useful when visiting other specialists who need to know the specifics of your cancer history--for instance a cardiologist, fertility specialist or dietitian. Survivorship care plans can be prepared for you in consultation with your physician. When considering which care plan to use, you and your physician should keep the following options in mind: