Ask the Expert: Lifestyle

The Physicians Committee

Ask the Expert: Lifestyle

Q:  What is the best way to make a lifestyle change?

A:  First, find your motivation. Why do you want to change? This is important because without, first, a set of values it is difficult to adopt life-altering changes. One motivation might be that at least one third of cancers are related to diet or that you will feel better by adopting a healthier diet. A malnourished diet, deficient of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals is a stressor on the body. Once you have identified these factors, making lifestyles changes should not be a problem.  Maintenance is the next step. This is done by making a plan, a strategy to get you on your way.  Dr. Paulette Chandler suggests making a three-day food diary, jotting down your mood as wells as all of the food and beverages you consume.  You might realize that you tend to eat more at stressful times or in the evening watching tv and you can strategize to reduce these tendencies accordingly by making a glass of tea to soothe your nerves instead of reaching for a bag of potato chips.  By noticing these trends and behaviors, you will be able to adjust your lifestyle for the better.  Next is the fun part: developing a menu for the next three weeks. You can find some useful recipes on You will need to go shopping for weeks in advance, thinking about all that you might need, including snacks and beverages. Monitor your progress all of the time, being aware of what improvements you might make. One of the most important things to do is celebrate your successes! Life is too short not to have fun and it is important to make sure you make time for fun in your life.  View a Webcast presentation by Paulette Chandler>

Q:  What are the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for cancer patients?

A:  Adjuvant treatments for breast and colon cancer lowers disease mortality by 25-40 percent.  Weight management, alone, may lower disease mortality by 40 percent and moderate exercise after breast and colon cancer may lower disease mortality by 40-50 percent. Paulette Chandler, M.D., noted at the 2006 Cancer Project Symposium that “Social action to promote health and prevent disease saves more lives more cheaply than high tech medicine across all cultures.” Leading a healthy lifestyle also sets important examples for our children, leaving a legacy of healthful habits and values for generations and generations.

Exercise is also very important. Exercise helps you feeling better all the time, even during and after medical treatments. It improves your chances of disease-free survival, combats fatigue, depression, anxiety, and improves strength and overall quality of life.

Sleep is important because of the powerful benefits of melatonin.  It has been shown that women who work night shifts are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.  See Paulette Chandler’s full presentation >