Managing Diabetes During Cancer Treatment
Did you know? Around eight to eighteen percent of the people living with cancer have diabetes. Most patients know they have diabetes when diagnosed with cancer; some people may only find diabetes after a cancer diagnosis or during treatment for cancer. Let’s understand the risky connection between cancer and diabetes and how to manage diabetes in cancer patients during cancer treatment.
The Connection Between Cancer And Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are the two primary types of diabetes. They occur when the hormone called insulin is little or absent or when the body doesn’t respond to the hormone insulin as it should, and as a result, it can damage the cells causing serious health problems. Diabetic people with cancer most often have cancers in the liver, kidney, uterus, pancreas, colon, breast, stomach, or cervix.
Cancer and its treatment may initiate or worsen the symptoms of diabetes. Some anticancer medicines associated with high blood glucose levels include 5-fluorouracil, asparaginase, cisplatin, everolimus, nivolumab, pembrolizumab, nilotinib, and busulfan. Certain side effects of cancer therapy, such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, and dehydration, can make it hard to manage the blood sugars.
Also, high blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can weaken the immune system and make the body vulnerable to infections. It may delay the recovery, or physicians may recommend delaying the cancer treatment. Uncontrolled sugar levels can also negatively impact other vital organs.
How To Manage Diabetes During Cancer Treatment?
Many factors such as stress, change in diet, and medications can impact your blood sugar level, and here are a few things to help control your blood sugar during cancer treatment.
Learn and formulate a plan: Being diagnosed with cancer can be frustrating and if you have diabetes also, it may add even more stress. Learning more about your cancer and diabetes and how diabetes affects your therapy for cancer is very crucial. It will help you manage the conditions better and reduce or prevent health complications. List out all the questions and goals you have and work with your health care team to formulate a management plan.
Stick to healthy eating: Treatment side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss can impact your ability to drink or eat as you usually do. Skipping meals may prevent the body from getting the essential nutrients it requires during treatment. Having healthy meals at the same time each day can help balance glucose levels. Include more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and reduce red meat and processed foods intake. An oncology dietitian can recommend a diabetic meal plan that fits your special needs.
Get physically active: Exercise is one important aspect of cancer treatment. It helps the body use blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight that helps keep sugar levels under control. It also helps improve sleep, prevent muscle loss, reduce depression and lower the chance of fatigue, nausea, and osteoporosis. Your ability to exercise and the types of activities you can do depends on the type of cancer you have, treatment you are undergoing, overall health, and side effects that you are having. Your physician can help in developing an exercise program suitable for you.
Say no to unhealthy habits: Smoking and alcohol are major risk factors for the development of cancer and various chronic conditions. These unhealthy habits may make the treatment less effective and increase the hospital stays during the treatment. They can impair the immune system and make patients more susceptible to infections.
Track your health: Check your blood sugar and pressure levels periodically and keep them within the range. Track your cancer treatments, medicines, side effects, etc., using a free application or a journal. It can help you easily manage diseases and help your doctors identify any health problems and their causes.
Reduce stress, share your feelings, & ask for help: Stress can make your body produce various hormones that raise blood sugar and can impair the immune system. Various stress management strategies such as tai chi, breath focus, meditation, yoga, and repetitive prayer can help you cope better. Share your feelings with friends and family members you trust. Join a support group of people who are going through the same diagnosis. Have a habit of accepting things you can’t control and asking for help.
Lower Your Risk Of Cancer Recurrence
Managing two chronic conditions can be overwhelming, but proper plans and care help manage them effectively. The above steps can also help lower the risk of cancer recurrence. Before following any diet, exercise, or relaxation techniques, check with your physician if it suits you.