Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Keeping well with cancer

Keeping well with cancer image

When you have cancer, there may be times when you no longer feel in control of your body, and you may compromise the motivation to look after yourself. It is, however, more important than ever that you try to live healthily. Try following a few simple lifestyle tips.


Eating a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of additional health-related problems such as heart disease.1 Here are some suggestions:

  • Eat 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day; a portion is:2
    • Three large tablespoons of vegetables
    • One average-sized fruit such as an apple
    • One 150 mL glass of fruit juice
  • Eat wholemeal bread2
  • Eat foods that are a source of protein such as chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, and lentils2
  • Drink eight glasses of fluids per day3
  • Limit alcohol to no more than:4
    • 2 drinks per day for males aged less than 65 years
    • 1 drink per day for females and older males
  • A drink is 148 mL of wine or 355 mL of beer or 44 mL of spirits


Keeping active during your cancer treatment can help you to feel less tired, reduce anxiety, and control your weight.1

The World Health Organization recommends doing at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week. For example, 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times per week. However, you may need to adjust your activity levels depending on how much you are physically able to do.5 If you are not used to exercise, you can gradually build up how much you do over several days or weeks:1

  • Try starting with a 10-minute walk every day
  • Click here to learn more about types of exercise suitable for you


Stop smoking and avoid places where other people are smoking. Even if you already have cancer this will help improve your overall health.1

Emotional well-being

Look after your mental and emotional well-being. Try to manage stress; for instance:6

  • Ask others for help when things become too much
  • Be aware of your limits and do not be afraid to say “No”
  • Learn relaxation techniques such as meditation
  • Join a support group to talk to others

Laughter helps to reduce stress and improve your mood, so making time for fun can be beneficial. Try doing things that you enjoy, such as eating at your favourite restaurant, or things that make you laugh, such as watching a comedy film.1,6

Above all, do not forget to take care of the most important person in your cancer care team: you!7



  1. Cancer.Net. Healthy living. Accessed March 2016.
  2. Macmillan. How to eat healthily. Accessed March 2016.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Water: How much should you drink every day? Accessed March 2016.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Alcohol use: if you drink, keep it moderate. Accessed March 2016.
  5. World Health Organization. Physical activity and adults. Accessed March 2016.
  6. Cancer.Net. Managing stress. Accessed March 2016.
  7. American Cancer Society. After diagnosis: a guide for patients and families. Accessed April 2016.