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Eating Well and Staying Active

Eating Well and Staying Active

The importance of good nutrition and physical activity

Eating a variety of healthy foods and staying active can help maximise your physical and overall wellbeing before, during and after your cancer treatment and may help to increase your quality of life.

Healthy nutrition

Eating well and being active can help:

For tips to help overcome nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhoea, see our support resource, the Resilience Kit. If you have a sore mouth due to side effects of your treatment, it may be best to avoid spicy and citrus foods.

Healthy eating during cancer treatment and beyond is all about eating a wide range of nourishing foods that can help you recover quickly and keep your weight at a healthy level. You may have increased nutrition needs due to your cancer. There are generally no special foods you need to eat or avoid.

Dealing with the side effects of treatment

Cancer and its treatment can often make healthy eating a challenge – especially when you are feeling sick, are constipated, are in pain, have lost your appetite, or are simply too tired to eat. In these situations, it is important not to become too worried about only eating the healthiest foods. In time, you can get back to eating a well-balanced diet.

You may experience weight loss or weight gain during your treatment. Refer to this factsheet from Peter Mac for some advice on managing your weight

It is also very important to try and stay hydrated during your treatment, especially if you are having chemotherapy. Water and herbal teas are good.

Seeing a dietician

It is important to understand that everyone’s experience is different.  If you are concerned about your nutrition intake or would like some expert advice, ask your GP or specialist to refer you to a dietitian. For more information about how a dietitian can help you, please refer to this fact sheet from Peter Mac.

Nutritional myths

Beware of any special diets, foods or supplements that are promoted as being especially beneficial for people with cancer or claim to ‘cure’ cancer. None of these claims have been scientifically proven, and some can cause harm. Excluding food groups you need for health, energy and good immune function may interfere with the success of your treatment,or cause you to lose too much weight. There are many other myths regarding cancer and nutrition. Refer to this factsheet from Peter Mac for some of the more common myths.

More information on nutrition
  • CanEat pathway devised by PMCC

  • Read the Cancer Council’s Nutrition and cancer and Living well after cancer (cancer.org.au or call 13 11 20 for a free copy).

  • Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre (via www.petermac.org) has a series of excellent fact sheets about life after treatment.

  • Dietitians Association of Australia (1800 812 942 or www.daa.asn.au) has a list of accredited practising dietitians around Australia.

Physical activiy

Benefits of physical activity

Being active can help boost your energy, reduce fatigue, relieve stress, digestion and constipation and increase your appetite. It may also reduce anxiety and depression and improve your overall wellbeing. These factors are all very important during your cancer treatment and during recovery.

There is growing evidence to suggest that regular exercise after a cancer diagnosis can reduce the chance of some cancers coming back

Cancer Council Australia
Types of physical activity

The types of exercise you can do and the intensity will depend on what your level of physical activity prior to cancer and treatment. Understand that your body has changed and you may not be able to participate in the same level of physical activity as before your surgery. If possible, include a combination of strength exercises and aerobic exercises. Following surgery and during treatment it is important to start slowly and progress gradually, even if you exercised regularly in the past. Exercises should not cause any strain on the body.

  • Aerobic exercise: walking, swimming, cycling and water exercise classes are gentle aerobic activities that many women feel comfortable with when they are recovering from ovarian cancer.

  • Strengthening exercises: Yoga can be especially beneficial for your body and also your mind. Pilates or lifting light weights may also help to strengthen your muscles. Ovarian cancer surgery often means going through an early menopause. This may result in weakened core muscles and possible weight gain and it is important to work on your core and pelvic floor strength but it is important to speak to a qualified health professional for guidance post-surgery.

  • Stretching: Gentle stretching is a great way to relieve tension and tightness that build up in the muscles often caused by treatment and to maintain movement in your body and increase blood flow. Avoid overstretching any surgical site and be gentle when stretching an area where there is scar tissue.

Whichever activity you choose, you will need to start slowly and gradually increase your activity level. If you are able, try to be active for at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week.

Seeking professional advice

Speak with your doctor, an accredited exercise physiologist or physiotherapist if you are unsure if certain activities are okay for you, or if you are unsure about what level of activity you can participate. Seeking expert advice from an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist is especially important following surgery to ensure your recovery is not compromised. They may devise an individualised exercise program specific to your goals and needs.

Set realistic expectations

It is important to remember that your body has been through a big change and may not respond to exercise in the same way it did before treatment. Treatment and the side effects including fatigue may impact and vary the amount of exercise you are able to do from day to day. Some days you may feel better than others. Be kind to yourself and ensure your expectations and goals are realistic. Listen to your body and take note of how you feel during and after exercise and adjust your exercise accordingly.

More information on physical activity
  • Read the Cancer Council’s Living well after cancer and Exercise for people living with cancer (www.cancer.org.au or call 13 11 20 for a free copy).

  • The Cancer Council runs free programs that focus on wellness after cancer. Call 13 11 20 and ask about programs in your state or territory.

  • See the Department of Health’s Australia’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults (18–64 years) (www.health.gov.au).

  • The Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre has an excellent fact sheet Coping with cancer related fatigue (via www.petermac.org).

Want to talk?

Ovarian Cancer Australia's Helpline is available to call 9am - 5pm AET Monday to Friday 

Acknowledgement flags

Ovarian Cancer Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where our office is located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.