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Self Care Measures with Cancer


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.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have new or different chest pain.
  • You have new trouble breathing.
  • You feel like hurting yourself.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You feel like you have broken a bone.
  • You have stomach pain that does not go away.
  • You have severe nausea with vomiting.
  • You have any bleeding.

Contact your 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 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.

Lifestyle changes to help manage your 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.

Physical and occupational therapy to help manage your 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.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or oncologist as directed:

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

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 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 IBM Watson Health

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.