In 2020, an estimated 825, 561 people in the US are living with or in remission from both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Getting a lymphoma diagnosis, just like other cancers, can be scary and overwhelming, partly because of its lack of set course.
While there are different treatment options available for lymphoma, the effects of the disease itself and the treatment-related symptoms may be lessened through positive lifestyle changes. Although these may not directly affect lymphoma, they play a significant role in improving an individual’s physical and mental health.
Primarily, a healthy lifestyle helps patients prepare their bodies for treatment and lessen the effects of treatment. They also boost the immune system to fight against lymphoma and other illnesses and improve patients’ emotional outlook so they can enjoy their lives. In addition to these, complications of lymphoma like the development of another cancer may be avoided through a positive lifestyle.
Common treatments for lymphoma
Just like other types of cancer, the conventional treatment option for lymphoma is chemotherapy. This treatment kills tumor cells directly through radiation or targeted therapy. Immunotherapy is another option, which uses medicines made of synthetic proteins that function like natural antibodies to imitate the immune system.
There are also natural treatments available and are commonly used as complementary treatments. These include
- Animal-assisted therapy
- Dietary supplements
- Massage therapy
- Music therapy
To understand more about lymphoma and its treatments, check How to Treat Lymphoma.
Lifestyle changes that can help manage lymphoma
- Reduce your risk of infection
Lymphoma itself and its treatments weaken the body’s immune system or its ability to fight infections. This means an increase in the risk of infection or the severity of common infections like cold. To reduce your risk of infection, follow these tips:
- Wash hands often and carry hand sanitizers when going out.
- Try to avoid gatherings or huge crowds, especially during cold and flu season.
- Avoid touching any part of your face after having contact with objects and surfaces.
- Ask your doctor if you could get immunization against the flu and pneumonia.
- Make dietary changes
A healthy diet promotes good general health, which means that more treatment options could be available for you and a higher tolerance for higher doses of chemotherapy.
After treatment, eating well also aids in quick recovery. With the proper nutrients, your body will have enough strength and ability to fight infection, other illnesses, and the risk of developing other cancers.
Lymphoma and treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other therapies may require your body to increased calories and protein intake. Foods high in protein include meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Dairy products are also a good source of protein.
In addition to this food group, lymphoma experts suggest 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. In this amount of servings, at least one serving of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and radishes must be included daily.
- Exercise regularly
Physical activities bring many benefits, such as improving overall physical health, increasing muscle strength, lessening fatigue, reducing the risk of developing blood clots, and controlling weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
After lymphoma treatment, patients commonly experience declines in physical functioning and quality of life. These effects can be reversed through exercise training. A study by Courneya et al. conducted from 2005 to 2008 found that aerobic activity improved the physical functioning and quality of life of 122 lymphoma patients, including those that were undergoing chemotherapy.
For adults, 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate activity in chunks of 10 minutes per week are recommended. Moderate activities include walking, gentle cycling, dancing, lawn mowing, and golf. This can be reduced to 1 hour and 5 minutes if you prefer brisk activities, such as digging in the garden, sit-ups, running, walking up the stairs, and push-ups.
- Quit smoking
Smoking is known to increase the risk for many cancers and other diseases. It slows down tissue healing and other repair processes in the body. Quitting smoking to avoid its risk for diseases is even more important for those diagnosed with cancer or other serious illnesses.
While undergoing lymphoma treatment, quitting smoking also brings benefits to the body. A 2011 study by Peppone, et al. found that smoking can increase the symptom burden for cancer patients during and after treatment. Therefore, smoking cessation increases patients’ quality of life and limits the likelihood of interrupting their treatments.
Some known effects of continuous smoking while undergoing cancer treatment include worse treatment side effects like fatigue, heart and lung problems, and weight loss.
- Manage fatigue
Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is very common in patients suffering from blood cancer like lymphoma. It is characterized by excessive and persistent exhaustion that interrupts a person’s quality of life or daily functions and activities. It is experienced even before diagnosis and may worsen during the course of treatment and beyond.
Patients often describe the manifestations of CRF as muscle weakness and difficulty concentrating, which lymphoma patients find even more distressing than their other symptoms. To help manage this, they should prioritize urgent tasks and allow others to assist them when needed, such as with daily chores, preparing meals, and shopping. Plenty of rest and sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet would also be necessary.
If fatigue is affecting your quality of life, ask your doctor for possible adjustments in your treatments as this usually helps.
- Seek support
One of the most important aspects of managing your lymphoma is seeking external support. It can be overwhelming to handle the uncertainty of this serious disease, anxiety about how you will feel during the treatment, and the lifestyle changes you have to keep. It is then important to seek support from the people around you, especially your family, friends, and other people you trust. Religious communities, support groups, and professionals are also out there willing to help. They offer specific programs tailored to the patient’s needs.
Several studies have already been made on this and have found a significant increase in the quality of life of cancer patients who join support groups. Moreover, patients who get external help in addition to their treatments maintain better emotional balance.