From surgery to medicine to radiation, there are many different treatments you might get for metastatic renal cell carcinoma. No matter which ones you use, healthy lifestyle choices can help you make the most of them.
Keep these tips in mind as you’re thinking about life after kidney cancer treatment. Before you make any big changes to things like your diet or exercise routine, check in with your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you.
Stick With Healthy Foods
A healthy diet is always good for you. But after cancer treatment, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. If your sense of taste has changed or you don’t feel much like eating, a dietitian can suggest ways to get the nutrition you need.
In general, you don’t need to eat anything special. Just choose plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and lean proteins, like chicken and fish. Eat a variety of foods to make sure you get the nutrients you need.
After some treatments though, you’ll be more limited. In these cases, it’s best to work with a dietitian so you know you’re eating right:
If you had a kidney removed. If your remaining kidney is healthy, you won’t need to eat or avoid specific foods. If not, you may need to:
- Go easy on protein. A high-protein diet makes your kidney work harder. To protect it, you may have to eat less meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, and beans.
- Limit your liquids. The more you drink, the more strain you put on your kidney. So sip what you need, but don’t overdo it.
- Skip the salt. Your kidney removes salt from your blood. The more of it you eat, the harder the organ has to work.
- Watch out for phosphorous. When your kidney isn’t working as well as normal, your phosphorus levels go up. It’s a mineral your body needs, but not too much. Beans, nuts, and seeds have a lot of it.
- Limit how much potassium you get. A kidney that isn't working well isn't able to maintain the correct amount of potassium in your body. If your potassium gets too high, it can cause an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack. Potassium is found in many foods. Talk to a dietitian that specializes in kidney disease and can help you learn what foods to eat and which foods you might have to not eat so much of.
If you’re on dialysis. After some treatments, your kidneys may not be able to do their job, at least for a while. That’s when you might need dialysis, a treatment that removes waste from your blood. You may have to:
- Avoid foods that are high in salt, potassium, and phosphorus
- Eat more protein than normal because you lose it during dialysis
- Limit how much liquid you drink
It can be tough to exercise if treatment makes you feel drained, especially if the tiredness doesn’t seem to go away. But moving your body is key to getting your energy back.
Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist to come up with a routine that works for you. The right workout can boost your mental and physical health. It helps with depression and anxiety, it’s great for your heart, and it lowers stress.
Aim for 30 minutes every other day, but it’s OK to start with less if you need to. It’s important to listen to your body and not push too hard. Even a short walk is great.
If you have a hard time getting started, get a friend or family member to do it with you. Sometimes, it’s easier to get moving when you have company.
Keep Stress in Check
It helps to have a regular routine you can count on to relax and cut stress. For some people, exercise is a big help. If religion is part of your life, praying or talking with your faith leaders may bring you relief. Or start doing yoga, meditation, or visualization, where you picture your fears floating away. Or you can try a mix of all of them.
It’s different for everyone. Find some things that work for you and make time for them regularly.
Cut Back on Alcohol
Too much alcohol is never good for anyone. It’s usually fine to have a beer with some friends or the occasional glass of wine at dinner. But at most, limit yourself to one drink a day for women or two for men.
If you light up, now’s a good time to stop. Your doctor can help you find a program that can help you quit. Smoking is a main cause of kidney cancer. If the cancer was removed, it’s more likely to come back if you smoke.
Go to All Your Follow-Up Appointments
After treatment, you’ll still have regular visits with your doctor. You’ll talk about any symptoms you’re having and if your treatment caused any side effects.
It’s important to keep up with these visits and talk openly with your doctor. That’ll help you get the care you need. Your doctor may do a physical exam, take blood tests, or do imaging scans of your body to make sure your cancer isn’t coming back.