Friday, April 27, 2012

ACS New Guidelines for Cancer Survivors

The American Cancer Society has updated their Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors, previously published in 2001 and 2006. The complete report is available free of charge.

I have not read it yet, but I recognized nearly every name on the list of authors and advisors, all researchers or clinicians who have been long-involved, in fact most of them have been pioneers leading the way in this field emphasizing the importance of nutrition and exercise on cancer survivorship long before the first report was issued.

I don't know yet if there is anything 'new' except to perhaps both reiterate and also strengthen the recommendations that weight matters, exercise matter, food matters, plus don't wait until your cancer therapy is over to begin incorporating some of these ultra-healthy changes into your life, instead begin as soon as possible (and within reason and ability) after a cancer diagnosis.

I hope the report indicates that handing a patient a pamphlet that says "eat right and exercise" is not enough, even with multiple good examples of how to do that. A better developed and coordinated approach to cancer survivorship is needed, being modeled after a 'cardiac rehab' program that helps a person develop the skills and confidence to approach and change many aspects of life (diet, exercise, handling of stress, prioritizing and developing - or redefining - a purposeful life, as a few necessary components) to approach life after cancer with the best odds for both increasing length of life and also quality of life.

I'll add this report to the growing pile of reading, which will only grow taller and taller for the next 6 months of our growing season. It's hard for me to read anything substantive that needs sustained attention before my head hits the pillow after working outside all day. In any case, I hope it provides some useful information to someone who can read it sooner than I can. I am doing better at catching up reading shorter (still needing thoughtful attention) poetry. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


nancy oliveri said...

I like the idea of modeling such a program after cardiac rehab programs. I was diagnosed with breast cancer with mets to the liver in 2000 and have done just about every chemo ok'd for breast cancer. Everytime I am finished chemo I again devote myself to spending an enormous amount of energy on up-to-the-minute research as to diet and all alternative medicine possibilities. I live in a fairly rural area of Maine and though I email with a few interested friends from the cancer community at large, how incredibly powerful and wonderful it would be to have a place to go routinely for professional advice, encouragement and support to continue taking good care of myself.

Great idea !
Nancy O.

Diana Dyer said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Some cancer centers are setting up 'survivorship programs' that include medical care aimed at treatment and surveillance of both long-term and late effects from cancer treatments in addition to more holistic 'life support' to help patients live their life as long and as well as possible, similar to a cardiac rehab approach.

However, cardiac rehab is paid for by many insurance companies while (so far) there is no consistent approach to payment for 'cancer rehab'.

To help fill this gap, there are organizations such as Gilda's Club, The Wellness Community (now joined) that have made a passionate effort to provide general support for psycho-social-nutrition-exercise needs of the patient and family after a cancer diagnosis, provided in a welcoming setting off-site, mostly free of charge because of generous donations.

However, some people really do need the medical support and other individualized professional assessments and guidance, which has not yet been fully recognized by the powers that be who pay for these professional services. Progress is being made, but with 1.4 million new cancer diagnoses annually in this country alone, there is still a long way to go.

Every organic farmer I have met is focused on their work as a goal of health creation, disease prevention, for their community. We add our voice and hard work to that effort.

Nancy, you are an inspirational survivor, and give meaning to the term 'cancer thriver'. You are also a shining example of what I call "Active Hope". :)

I send all my best wishes to you for continuing to 'out-smart' those darn cancer cells. I will enjoy thinking of you whenever I think of Eliot Coleman doing his amazing organic farming in the Great State of Maine. You are doing amazing work, too! It must be those rocks in the soil that give you both the grace and the grit to find a way to succeed.


susan said...

hi, when i lived in louisville ky, livestrong programs were available FREE at the local Y's for cancer survivors. they were lead by wonderful people, and my co partners were a joyful bunch. i miss them dearly. another big gym there offered free and reduced prices for aquatic classes for women who had experienced breast cancer. We played and laughed, and they were there for me for info and support if needed. My sense is these programs are subsidized only in large metro areas. but i wonder about encouraging local gyms, aquatic ctrs etc to do something along this line. Here in south central vt and nh we have offers almost monthly of free and affordable retreats, nutrition classes['real' nutrition! not the hospital variety], art, writing etc classes. the hospital offers free 15 + massage and reiki at the oncology dept. love hearing from both of you, and hope the guidelines are ' real', too. not general statements. groups and people are an important element for me.

Diana Dyer said...

Thanks for reminding me of the Livestrong programs associated with many local YMCA's as another source of 'cancer rehab' available free of charge.

I heartily agree with your comment that groups and people who are 'all in this together' are an important element for both support and success (i.e. think of the traditional support groups facilitated by oncology social workers).

Local cancer retreats are often available and very worthwhile, but someone is paying for them somehow, even if everything (accommodations, food, professional time) is donated.

My point is simply asking why should all of this need to be donated for cancer patients but is paid for by 3rd party payers for cardiac rehab in many instances.

Ahhh..... reiki, yoga, massage, meditation, writing, art, and on and on and on. I love thinking about those healing therapies being offered to cancer patients as part of a holistic approach to healing right at the cancer center. That would change a cancer center from a 'treatment center' to a 'healing center'. Trying any one or all of those therapies is a means of exploring 'life after cancer' can help one find a full and meaningful life after the trauma of any cancer diagnosis (the initial, local recurrence, metastatic recurrence, another new primary).

I am a firm believer that there is more than one path to the mountain top, and I am also a firm believer that all of these therapies can enhance the quality of one's life, which when push comes to shove, I view as an equal if not perhaps an even more important goal than striving to extend one's life. :)

Other thoughts? Bring 'em on! I love the input and discussion.

Back to farming, sorting seeds this cold and rainy spring afternoon.