Better Managing Your Health

Over the course of your cancer journey, it’s important to pay close attention to your overall health. You may have to modify your daily habits. Here are a few health management strategies for people living with head and neck cancer.

Taking Charge of Your Health


Eating Well to Stay Well


Connecting Mind and Body

Stay Nourished

Many people living with cancer experience weight loss. A few key strategies to help promote a healthy weight include:

  • Consume small, frequent meals in order to achieve your optimal nutrition each day — ideally at least three meals and two snacks per day.
  • Focus on consuming adequate calories and protein; choose higher-calorie meals by including more oil, butter, cheese, nuts, gravies, and sauces as tolerated.
  • Focus on good sources of protein for healing from lean poultry, meat, eggs, fish, nuts and beans.
  • Include nutrient-rich shakes, smoothies and nutritional beverages to supplement additional calories, protein and nutrients as needed.
  • Discuss with your healthcare team the inclusion of resistance exercise to help rebuild muscle tissue that may have been lost.
  • Don’t get too focused on the “numbers” – the important thing to focus on is healing by eating healthfully and regaining your strength. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a little bit longer for the weight to follow!

Include Colorful Plant Foods

Recent evidence has shown that a diet rich in plant foods from colorful fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes has many health benefits, including the ability to strengthen the immune system and fight cancer.

Here are some helpful tips to include more plant foods:

  • Aim to include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables every day such as:
    • Yellow pepper (yellow), zucchini (green), cherries (red), carrot (orange), blueberry (blue), and eggplant (purple).
  • Include healthy plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.
  • Choose more whole-grain foods such as whole wheat pasta, bread, cereal and rice, and foods made with bran, oat, barley, millet, and quinoa.

Skip the Alcohol

Speak to your healthcare team regarding your alcohol intake, as they may advise avoiding all alcohol for your personal case. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, drinking alcohol may be a contributing factor to cancer and even modest use may increase a person’s cancer risk.


Get Moving

Physical activity has numerous benefits including the potential to reduce cancer risk by strengthening the immune system and promoting a healthy weight. It can be overwhelming to think about “a workout routine;” yet increasing activity doesn’t have to be a strict routine. Many simple everyday activities can help to enhance your activity level and improve your overall health and wellbeing. Please talk with your healthcare team to make sure these activities are appropriate for you.

  • For example, activities such as walking, yardwork, housework, hiking, stretching, and even dancing can be fun and innovative ways to include more physical activity into your lifestyle.
  • It is recommended to slowly build up to a goal of at least 30 minutes of exercise per day (or 150 minutes per week).
  • Remember, even short bouts of exercise can be combined to reach your goal — it doesn’t have to include 30 minutes all at once!

Create Your Own Head & Neck Cancer Game Plan

Get helpful tips tailored for you on how to manage your health, handle emotional challenges, communicate with caregivers and more.

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