Self Care Measures With Cancer


Self-care measures are things you can do to help cope with cancer and its treatment. They can be used in addition to your primary healthcare provider's treatment and care.


Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or oncologist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


Diet changes will depend on what type of cancer you have and what treatment you receive. Changing the food you eat and how often you eat may help decrease symptoms, such as fatigue.

  • Drink plenty of water: Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily, unless your primary healthcare provider says you need less or more. This may help prevent you from feeling sick to your stomach, dizzy, or tired.

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Several small meals throughout the day may help decrease fatigue and help you get plenty of nutrition. You may need to drink high-nutrition drinks, such as protein shakes.

  • Eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in foods such as fish and walnuts.

  • Eat foods high in fiber: These include beans, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. Foods that are high in fiber can help you avoid problems with your bowel movements, such as constipation.

  • Avoid vitamins and mineral supplements: Vitamins and minerals may cause your treatment not to work as well. Do not take vitamins or minerals unless your primary healthcare provider says it is okay. Ask which foods contain the types of vitamins and minerals that you need.

Lifestyle changes:

Lifestyle changes may help protect you from getting sick and decrease your symptoms.

  • Avoid infection: Your cancer or treatment may decrease your immune system and increase your risk of infections. Do the following to protect yourself:

    • Wash your hands often: Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Use germ-killing gel to clean your hands when there is no soap and water available.

    • Avoid others who are sick: Try to avoid people who have a cold, the flu, or a rash.

    • Make sure your food is safe: Be careful when you touch raw meat, fish, chicken, and eggs. Cook all food until it reaches the right temperature. Choose food carefully at restaurants. Do not eat from a salad bar. Do not eat sushi or other raw food. Do not drink water from a well.

  • Limit alcohol: Women should not have more than 1 drink each day. Men should not have more than 2 drinks each day. Ask if you should drink alcohol at all.

  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking may make your symptoms worse. Ask your primary healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.

  • Exercise regularly: Ask your primary healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise may help improve your mood and decrease your fatigue and anxiety.

  • Get plenty of rest: Rest is important for your recovery. Slowly start to do more as you feel stronger.

Physical and occupational therapy:

Therapy may help you adapt to changes caused by your cancer, symptoms, and treatment. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.

Contact your primary healthcare provider or oncologist if:

  • You have pain that does not go away after you take medicine.

  • You feel too tired to do your normal daily activities.

  • You do not feel like eating.

  • You cannot pass gas.

  • Your legs or ankles are swollen.

  • You have new symptoms or your symptoms get worse.

  • You feel more sad or worried than usual.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You feel like hurting yourself.

  • You feel like you have broken a bone.

  • You have stomach pain that does not go away.

  • You have new or different chest pain.

  • You have new trouble breathing.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Self Care Measures With Cancer (Aftercare Instructions)