Renal Cell Carcinoma

Healthy Living

Living a healthy physical and emotional lifestyle is essential both during and after treatment for renal cell carcinoma (RCC). You can help yourself feel more in control by learning as much as you can about the specific characteristics of your subtype of RCC, your treatment options and the ways you can help make yourself healthier, both physically and emotionally.

Many people with RCC have credited a balance of regular exercise and plenty of rest to feeling better during and after treatment. Healthy eating habits are also beneficial, as they can help people achieve — and maintain — a healthy weight. Spending time with family and friends, getting involved in support groups and/or participating in religious or spiritual organizations are also helpful to many people treated for RCC.

Following are suggestions for managing some of the lifestyle obstacles you may face during treatment. Taking these actions can help you feel better both physically and emotionally, allowing you to better cope with the day-to-day challenges.

Maintain Good Nutrition

It’s important to make healthy choices when it comes to nutrition before, during and after treatment. This can be a challenge because you may not feel like eating if you have side effects, such as loss of appetite or nausea and vomiting. Or, you may find that foods don’t taste as good as they used to. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can offer suggestions for meeting your nutrition needs. In general, a healthy diet rich in protein can help you gain strength, which is especially needed during treatment cycles. Try these tips:

  • Eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and be sure you are getting enough protein.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Eat several small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals.
  • Try drinking ginger ale or peppermint tea because ginger and peppermint can help with nausea.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether you need calcium and vitamin D, either in your diet or as supplements. Some cancer treatments can cause loss of bone mass, and these vitamins help strengthen bones.

Be Active

You may not feel up to exercising as much as you did before RCC treatment, but participating in physical activities or regular exercise can help you feel better overall. Studies have shown that people with cancer who exercise regularly feel less tired and have more energy. In addition, too much rest can lead to a loss of body function, muscle weakness and reduced range of motion. Try these tips:

  • Always warm up for about two to three minutes before exercising, and end your activity with stretching or flexibility exercises.
  • Include weight-bearing activities, such as walking, in your daily activities. This type of activity can help strengthen bones, which is important if the cancer has spread to your bones. Start slowly and build up your distance as you gain more strength.
  • Power walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, has been proven to reduce fatigue caused by radiation by 71 percent.
  • Get the benefit of exercise from daily activities, such as walking your dog, gardening or housework.
  • Try short periods of exercise with frequent rest breaks.
  • Have fun with the activities you choose. Think about the physical activities you enjoy most and engage in them daily, or as often as you can tolerate it.

Get Enough Rest

Sleep disturbances are common among people with cancer. One reason is that fatigue related to cancer and its treatment leads people to take frequent naps during the day, which then makes it difficult to sleep at night. Try these tips:

  • Set aside time in your day to rest or take naps, but limit them to 20 to 30 minutes each.
  • Avoid napping in the late afternoon or early evening.
  • Conserve your energy. Plan activities at times of the day when you feel your best.
  • Take a break from daily chores, such as cooking or cleaning, by accepting help from others.
  • If you don’t get relief, talk with your health care team. Your doctor may change your medications if he or she thinks that drug interactions or side effects are contributing to your sleep problems. Your doctor may also recommend a medication to help you sleep.

Stay Emotionally Healthy

A cancer diagnosis can cause significant emotional reactions. Allowing yourself to express those emotions freely is vital to remaining emotionally healthy. Discovering ways to reduce and manage stress will strengthen your coping abilities. Try these tips:

  • Practice meditation, guided imagery, muscle relaxation and yoga.
  • Relax with ordinary “escapes,” such as reading, television or games.
  • Participate in online or in-person support groups.
  • Maintain relationships. Chat with a friend or family member about something completely unrelated to cancer. Maintaining relationships can go a long way toward good emotional health.
  • Stay alert for signs of depression, and seek help if you experience a depressed mood and a loss of interest in normal activities.