Avoid risky lifestyle behaviours


Life after cancer treatment will never be the same. Whether you’re in remission or have been given the all-clear, you may have concerns about your cancer coming back. These healthy lifestyle tips could help to reduce your recurrence risk.

It’s natural to be concerned about a cancer recurrence when you’re done with treatment. Chances are you’re now dealing with the aftermath of the journey you’ve been through, and you’re not quite sure what you should be doing next. Remember that your medical team won’t cease supporting you once your treatment is done. You’ll have regular follow-up appointments where you need to discuss everything that’s going on in your mind: your emotional concerns, any signs of depression and how to move forward. It may also be beneficial to chat to other cancer survivors through a reputable support group.

The importance of follow-up care

Follow-up care is an essential part of your cancer journey and your doctors will let you know how often they need to see you. Once again, they’ll work with you, this time around to tailor-make the best plan for your follow-up care - which will be based on both current medical guidelines for your type of cancer as well as your wishes and needs.

According to the US National Cancer Institute, post-treatment care focuses on identifying any changes to your health. This involves regular medical check-ups to review your medical history, regular physical exams and regular testing that may include a variety of scans and blood work to:

  • Check for any signs of cancer recurrence or spread
  • Prevent or detect other types of cancer
  • Deal with ongoing cancer- or treatment-related problems
  • Monitor any physical and psychosocial issues that may manifest months to years after treatment.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Your role right now – aside from reporting the presence of any physical signs or symptoms, any pain, and any emotional issues such as anxiety or depression – is to follow a healthy lifestyle which will not only help you to feel a lot more in control but will also help to reduce your risk of recurrence.

This involves:

  • Quitting smoking. Research shows that smoking can increase your chances of getting cancer or a cancer recurrence.
  • Limiting alcohol as this also increases your cancer risk.
  • Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly: Healthy food choices may help reduce the risk of cancer or recurrence while several recent research reports suggest that staying active after cancer can help lower the risk of recurrence and extend longevity. Remember to discuss all eating and exercise programme plans with your medical team.
  • Being sun wise:
    • Stay out of the sun in the middle of the day
    • Remain in the shade as much as possible
    • Always wear sunglasses and a hat
    • Cover up with tightly woven, loose-fitting clothing
    • Slather on the sunscreen whenever you venture outdoors, and reapply constantly
    • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps which are just as damaging as natural sunlight
  • Doing your best to prevent infections. Cancer prevention includes protection from certain viral infections. Chat to your doctor about the flu shot and any other vaccinations that may be beneficial for you.

Listen to our podcast and learn from experts on healthy eating during- and post-cancer treatment here.

Remember that risky behaviour can lead to various infections that may increase your cancer risk. So, always:

  • Practice safe sex. Limit your sexual partners and always use a condom. Remember that the more sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to contract a sexually transmitted infection such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or HPV (human papillomavirus). People who have HIV or AIDS are at a higher risk for cancer of the anus, liver and lung. HPV is most often associated with cervical cancer, but it may also increase your risk of cancer of the head and neck and also the anus, penis, throat, vulva and vagina
  • Use your own needles. Sharing needles with an infected drug user can lead to HIV, as well as hepatitis B and hepatitis C, which can increase your risk of liver cancer.

All medical information found on this website including content, graphics and images, is for educational and informational objectives only. Discovery Health publishes this content to help to empower cancer patients and their families by promoting a better understanding of a cancer diagnosis. The views expressed by all of the contributing healthcare providers are their independent, professional medical opinions, aimed at supporting patients. These views do not necessarily constitute the views of Discovery Health.


The Discovery Health Medical Scheme is an independent non-profit entity governed by the Medical Schemes Act, and regulated by the Council for Medical Schemes. It is administered by a separate company, Discovery Health (Pty) Ltd, an authorised financial services provider.

Related articles


Stages of survivorship: life after cancer

Thanks to ongoing breakthroughs in modern medicine, more and more people live full and productive lives, post cancer diagnosis and treatment. Today, 'survivorship' is recognized as a specialized field, playing a pivotal role in every cancer journey.


Survivorship: getting out of your cancer routine

The end of your cancer treatment heralds what, for some, is a daunting new phase – so-called 'Survivorship'. This stage of a cancer journey takes some adjustment, and there is plenty of support out there to help you to find your 'new normal'.


Diet and exercise now that you are healthy

It's wonderful to be given the all-clear once your treatment is complete. But the elation and joy of getting there is often coupled with anxiety and concern. 'What do I do next?' and 'How do I prevent it from coming back?' might be on your mind.

Log in

Please click here to login into Discovery Digital Id

Please click here to login into Discovery Digital Id