Skip to Content

Self-care Measures With Cancer

What are self-care measures?

Self-care measures help you cope with cancer and its treatment. The measures are used in addition to your healthcare provider's treatment and care.

How may cancer or its treatment affect me?

  • Fatigue means you feel tired most of the time. This may make it more difficult for you to do your normal daily activities.

  • Pain may affect your daily activities and make it difficult to sleep. You may need to take medicine to help decrease pain.

  • Nausea and vomiting may be caused from the treatment you receive.

  • Weight loss may happen from the cancer or its treatment. Treatment may change how food tastes and smells. You may not want to eat because of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

  • Diarrhea, constipation, or urination problems may be caused by cancer treatment.

  • Mood changes may change how you feel about yourself and others. You may become worried, nervous, sad, or angry.

  • Loss of sleep may be caused by emotions, symptoms, or treatments.

What lifestyle changes can help manage my symptoms?

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

  • Prevent 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.

  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk for new or returning cancer. Smoking can also delay healing after treatment. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.

  • Limit or do not drink alcohol as directed. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink each day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks each day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

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

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

What types of therapy may help manage my symptoms?

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.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have new or different chest pain.

  • You have new trouble breathing.

  • You feel like hurting yourself.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You feel like you have broken a bone.

  • You have stomach pain that does not go away.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

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

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

  • You have no appetite.

  • You cannot pass gas.

  • Your legs or ankles are swollen.

  • You have new or worsening symptoms.

  • You feel more sad or worried than usual.

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2015 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.