Nearly 14 million people in the United States have survived cancer, a number that has quadrupled in the past several decades and is expected to reach 18 million by 2022, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). What's more, 15% of today's cancer survivors were first diagnosed 20 years ago or more, the National Cancer Institute says.
Fear of recurrence is perhaps the most common new reality for cancer survivors. "That's always in the back of their minds," says oncologist Carolyn D. Runowicz, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Florida International University's Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, and an 18-year breast cancer survivor.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine (see Question 1).
It is important that the same scientific evaluation that is used to assess conventional approaches be used to evaluate CAM therapies (see Question 4).
The National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine are sponsoring or cosponsoring...
Many nutrition experts recommend a Mediterranean-style diet -- whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, limited red meat, healthy fats like olive oils, and lots of produce (at least two and a half cups of vegetables and fruits each day). And, exercise goes hand in hand with a healthy weight. Studies show that stepping up physical activity decreases the risk of developing breast, colon, and endometrial cancer and may help prevent recurrence. All this takes discipline, but it's possible to take charge, Runowicz says.
"The fear of cancer recurrence can be crippling to some people," says Carolyn D. Runowicz, MD, who knows firsthand. At 41, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through chemotherapy at the same time she treated other women for cancer. How did she get on with her life after treatment and quell her fears? "I wrote a book," says Runowicz, co-author of To Be Alive: A Woman's Guide to a Full Life After Cancer.
"Writing a book was cathartic," says Runowicz. "I had a writer working with me, and she would say, ‘OK. Tell me about when you were diagnosed. How did you feel?' So I basically relived the entire experience. And when [the book] was done, the cancer was behind me."
Runowicz tells her patients they can do something similar. "Keep a diary, pour it out, and then hopefully it's behind you," she says. For those who can't do that, join a support group or get therapy. The American Cancer Society can help you find one.
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Carolyn Runowicz, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Florida International University's Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine; co-author, To Be Alive: A Woman's Guide to a Full Life After Cancer, Henry Holt: 1995.
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American Cancer Society: "New Healthy Living Guidelines for Cancer Survivors."
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NCI Office of Cancer: "Survivorship Factsheet."
American Cancer Society: "Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention."