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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Thyroid Cancer
Lifestyle changes may not directly affect the cancer itself but it can help to:
- Strengthen your body to better manage side effects of treatment.
- Make your immune system stronger to help in the fight against cancer.
- Improve your emotional outlook and overall wellness.
- Lower the risk of other medical problems that could affect your health.
Smoking may make thyroid cancer treatment less effective and increase the risk of complications. Smoking slows tissue healing and can cause irritation to the throat and nearby structures, which may already be very irritated from treatments.
When you quit smoking, the body immediately begins to repair itself. Quitting will help boost your immune system to help fight the cancer and improve recovery from treatment. It will also reduce your risk of future cancers.
Reduce Your Risk of Infection
Cancer and its treatments suppress the body's immune system. This can increase the risk of infection, or increase the severity of common infections, like a cold or the flu. To decrease the risk of infection while going through cancer treatment:
- Wash hands thoroughly and often. Hand washing is the most effective method of decreasing the chance of catching colds and flu. Carry hand sanitizer for times when washing is not convenient.
- Try to avoid crowds, especially during cold and flu season.
- Avoid touching eyes, mouth, and nose to after coming in contact with surfaces or objects.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects often.
- Ask your doctor about immunization against the flu and pneumonia.
Make Dietary Changes
A healthful diet can help your body and mind. Your diet can provide fuel to help your body function at its best, and nutrition to help tissue heal and recover. Mood and overall energy will also be better with proper nutritional support. A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and protein, and whole grains.
Cancer itself and some cancer treatment can reduce appetite. It becomes important to make the most of the calories that are eaten. A registered dietitian can help manage challenges that may be found with cancer or cancer treatments, find healthy alternatives, and develop an effective meal plan.
The doctor may recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements. It can help to correct low blood calcium levels after surgery. Regular blood tests will be needed to check calcium levels. Low calcium levels may cause heart flutters, muscle twitching, tingling, numbness, headache, or vision problems.
If you have not been exercising regularly, check with your doctor to choose safe exercises. Exercise has many benefits that may help you withstand the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and cancer treatment including:
- Promoting overall fitness
- Boosting your energy level
- Improving your immune system
- Boosting your spirits and improving your emotional outlook
It is important to balance rest and activities to prevent becoming too tired. Consider talking to a trainer who can help with designing an exercise program.
Fatigue is the most frequently experienced symptom of cancer and cancer treatments. This is especially true with thyroid cancer. To help avoid getting overtired, prioritize tasks and focus on the most important ones. It is important to allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and preparing meals. If needed, plan time throughout the day for rest.
Fatigue will also be more pronounced without proper nutrition. Talk to your doctor if fatigue is affecting quality of life.
The diagnosis of cancer is a life-defining event that can be difficult to handle. Facing the uncertainty of a serious disease, feeling anxious about treatment, lifestyle changes, and worrying about the impact of cancer can be overwhelming. It is important to rely on family, friends, and other people in your life. People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer can often maintain better emotional balance. Other sources of support include:
- Religious community
- Support groups for people with your type of cancer
- Professional support from social workers, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists who are trained to help support cancer patients and their families
Family and caregivers may also need support. Encourage them to seek support groups or counseling geared toward them.
Thyroid cancer found in advances stages can be harder to treat. Some people choose treatments to ease cancer complications or choose to stop treatment completely. Depending on your circumstances, it may be realistic to begin end-of-life planning. Considerations may include:
- Choosing home or hospice care
- Financial decisions
- Advance directives—includes legal issues, like wills, hospital orders for your care, and power of attorney for medical care and finances
- Insurance coverage
If you need guidance, talk to a member of your healthcare team. You can be referred to a trained professional to guide you through the process.
Anaplastic thyroid cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114292/Anaplastic-thyroid-cancer. Updated June 29, 2018. Accessed December 8, 2018.
General information about thyroid cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/thyroid/patient/thyroid-treatment-pdq. Updated August 18, 2017. Accessed December 8, 2018.
Follicular thyroid cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115204/Follicular-thyroid-cancer. Updated June 27, 2017. Accessed December 8, 2018.
Medullary thyroid cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113756/Medullary-thyroid-cancer. Updated June 29, 2018. Accessed December 8, 2018.
Nearing the end of life. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/end-of-life-care.html. Accessed October 30, 2017.
Papillary thyroid cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115275/Papillary-thyroid-cancer. Updated August 15, 2018. Accessed December 8, 2018.
Stay healthy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/healthy.html. Accessed October 30, 2017.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 09/2018
- Update Date: 11/08/2017