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We all know that staying healthy is important, but it can be hard to do, particularly during stressful times like when you are concerned about cancer. Many people feel that when they think they are getting a cancer diagnosis, the worst has already happened, and so the idea of trying to eat well and exercise becomes less important.

However, there is a lot of evidence that taking control of a situation can help reduce stress, and if in the event that you will need cancer treatment or surgery, there are definitely steps you can take to make sure that you are in the best place you can be to receive treatment. Instead of letting the weeks spent waiting for a diagnosis, treatment or surgery take over, you can choose to use that time to take positive steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

There is a lot of support out there about how to get healthier, but it is not always as easy to change as just deciding to go to the gym or eat more vegetables. For many people disability, time constraints and mental health can all impact whether or not they are able to make healthier choices. If you do feel able to make some healthier choices, we have put together some links which may be able to help you. If you don’t feel like you are in a position to make healthier choices, please know that is perfectly normal and it is important to protect your mental health too.

Physical Activity

There are many benefits to being physically active and guidelines tell us that it is safe to exercise before, during and after cancer treatment. Even though it sounds like a contradiction, being physically active can actually help to reduce cancer related fatigue, one of the most common side-effects of treatment.  It can also help you to feel better mentally and enable you to do things like gardening, housework or lifting. There is more and more evidence that exercise can help lower the risk of a number of different types of cancer risk of progression (cancer becoming more serious).

The NHS have put together this guide for how to exercise and what types of exercise can be useful.  While these can be daunting, just remember that something is better than nothing and if you don't move much at the moment, just start small and build up gradually. The charity “Move against Cancer” have programmes across Wales and beyond, as well as advice available to help support you to make positive choices about physical activity if you are concerned about cancer.


Most of us know that smoking increases the risk of developing many types of cancer, but did you know that smoking can also limit how well certain treatments work, as well as increase chances of complications which can be life threatening? If you have a struggled to quit smoking before, concern about a cancer diagnosis may help your motivation to stop. Quitting smoking, even after a diagnosis will increase your chances of survival and can dramatically improve your quality of life. NHS Wales has a great resource called “Help me quit” to show you what support is available in your area and offers a call back service to help provide the support you need to help you quit.


It is normal during periods of stress (such as waiting for a diagnosis or having been diagnosed with cancer) to try and find coping mechanisms. While many people drink alcohol to help them relax, drinking alcohol is associated with increased risk of at least 7 different cancer types and so must be considered.  It is not advised to drink alcohol while undergoing cancer treatment, particularly certain types of chemotherapy, but research has shown that people with a cancer diagnosis often drink more heavily, and this heavy drinking is linked to cancer recurrence. While drinking the occasional glass of wine or beer may help you relax, it is worth speaking to your GP if you are undergoing cancer treatment and also being aware of any changes to your drinking habits which may impact you further down the line. If you think you are drinking too much and are finding it difficult to reduce your drinking habits on your own, your GP will be able to advise you of the support on offer. Our page on “protecting your mental health” may be able to offer you some alternative coping mechanisms.

If you want more information about how to drink less alcohol, this booklet by Macmillan is a good place to start. Read here.


Nutrition is one of the most important factors in protecting and maintaining your general health. Eating well has a positive impact on our energy levels and immune system, two things that are greatly affected by cancer. As well as being important during the cancer journey, there is also significant evidence to suggest that the way we eat can reduce the risk of getting cancer, and help us deal with any other health issues that may arise after cancer.

However, Nutrition is not always straight forward, especially when cancer is involved. Cancer can affect our appetite, palette, weight and digestion. On top of this creating a ‘healthy’ diet or nutrition plan can be very hard work. This process is not made any easier by the large amounts of misinformation and conflicting narratives that surround nutrition and the cancer journey. Macmillan have put together some evidence led guides to offer advice on nutrition in the lead up to cancer treatment, how different foo groups can support the cancer journey and how cancer can affect eating, hunger and digestion as well as useful resources for caring for someone with eating problems or weight loss.

If you or someone you love has been affected by cancer, our free Support Line is there for you. Just call 0808 808 1010