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Living with colon and rectal cancer

Beginning to recover from colon and rectal cancer

Many people survive colon and rectal cancer. However, the treatment can be very hard on the body and it may be some time before you are feeling fit and well again.

Some people want to make changes to their lifestyle after cancer. Living a healthy lifestyle can help your body recover more quickly and return to normal, and may help

to prevent the cancer from returning. It will also help to reduce the risk of other illnesses, such as heart disease and strokes.

You might choose to make just a few changes or completely change the way you live. If you are considering making some major changes to your lifestyle, it can be a good idea to discuss your plans with your doctor or specialist nurse.

Being involved in your healthcare means taking your medications when directed, always going for follow-up appointments and being aware of symptoms of a possible recurrence of the cancer.

Lifestyle – positive choices, helping yourself

Some people experience treatment side effects that gradually improve over time, while others may have ongoing side effects.

You may have a range of other effects such as trouble sleeping, or feeling weaker and more tired than usual, rather than specific treatment side effects. You may have lost or gained some weight or have stiff muscles or joints.

Living a healthy lifestyle can help you recover but may sometimes appear to be a lot of hard work. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle is about making small, achievable changes to the way you live that will improve your health and well-being. Your healthy lifestyle will be individual to you, and what is right for you may not be right for someone else.

A healthy lifestyle can include having a well-balanced diet, getting some exercise, reducing stress, and being involved in your healthcare. You will need to take any side effects of treatment into consideration when planning changes to your diet and exercise. Don‘t try to do too much too soon.


Awell-balanced diet should include:

  • plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day)
  • foods high in fibre, such as beans and cereals
  • plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids.

You should also try to reduce your intake of:

  • red meat and animal fats
  • alcohol
  • salted, pickled and smoked foods.

Before making major changes to your diet it‘s a good idea to discuss your plans with your specialist or with a dietitian at the hospital.

Stop smoking

Stopping smoking has many health benefits and reduces your risk of other diseases such as heart disease and stroke.


Exercise doesn‘t have to be particularly strenuous. You can start gently and build up the amount of physical activity you do. Whatever your age or physical health there will be some kind of exercise you could try, such as walking, hiking, cycling or swimming. Activities like gardening, dancing and playing sport are also good to try.

Managing stress

There are lots of ways to reduce the stress in your life. You could make time to do things that you enjoy, or that make you laugh. Some people find it relaxing to meditate or pray, or to start a new pastime or an evening class. You may find it helpful to write a journal or online blog.

Living with and after colon and rectal cancer

Cancer can affect many areas of your life such as your finances, work, your emotions and relationships. Find information and advice about what the effects might be, how to deal with them and how we can help.

Financial support

Find practical advice on the possible financial impact of a cancer diagnosis, including what benefits you might be entitled to.

Practical issues

Information on dealing with day-to-day problems, including work, travel, and travel insurance.

Emotional effects

Information on the emotions you might experience as a result of your cancer diagnosis, ways that you might manage them and other sources of support.

Relationships and communication

Advice on how to talk to other people, talking to children, relationships and sexuality.

How we can help

Find out about the ways in which JASCAP can offer you information and support.

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