Healthy living after cancer

Staying healthy is important after treatment for cancer.

After a cancer diagnosis and treatment, it is helpful for your healing and wellbeing to have a healthy lifestyle to strengthen your body, mind and spirit.

Our mob have a wonderful view of health – it means caring for mind, body, spirit, and Country. Our ancestors and Elders have taught us how to look after ourselves and there are lots of ways to care for our health including accessing local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health services that have information and activities to help us heal.

Some of the things that are risks for cancer are also risks for other health problems. A healthy way of life might support the treatment you’re getting and might reduce the chances of the cancer coming back.

Dealing with problems left by the cancer or its treatment

Having cancer can be life changing. Some people say they don’t feel like their old self after cancer. Some people may still have problems after treatment is finished and can experience things like:

  • Feeling really tired and no energy.  Feeling very tired after cancer treatments and the emotions of dealing with cancer is very common. Your energy levels do get better with time, but while you are affected it’s important to rest if you need to. However, surprisingly, exercise and spending time on Country has been found to help too. Read tips to help with fatigue here.
  • Pain and soreness in the body. You don’t need to put up with pain, including pain from surgery scars, muscle stiffness and joint pain. There are ways to manage pain, including medicines and ‘non-drug’ pain relief. Read more here.
  • Not sleeping well. Many people find it hard to get to sleep (insomnia) or hard to stay asleep (disrupted sleep) after cancer. This can make you feel very tired.  Read about tips to help you sleep after cancer.
  • Problems with eating. You may not feel like eating or have problems with your mouth or teeth after cancer treatment.  Food may also not taste the same.  A healthy, balanced diet with a range of fresh food will help you feel better, have a healthy weight and have more energy. Read about tips for healthy eating after cancer.
  • Problems going to the toilet. How your bladder feels, and works may change after surgery or radiotherapy, and you may need to pee more, or less than normal. You may feel constipated or go to the toilet more often. Yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and /or Torres Strait Islander health worker to get some help if you have any of these problems. Read more about bladder and bowel problems.
  • Feeling sad, down, or depressed, or anxious. Many of our mob have these feelings about their cancer or the cancer of a loved one. It’s important to reach out for the help and support you need, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. Read more about feelings here.

There are ways to address these things to make you feel better. It will take time for your body, mind and spirit to heal and get strong again.

Yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker about your options including traditional healing, bush medicines and cultural practices. You can yarn with your cancer doctors and nurses when you have follow-up check-ups. There are lots of ideas to help your recover.  You can read stories of others here. Yarning with others who have been through cancer can help too.

Side effects or symptoms that worry you?

If you have side effects or symptoms that are worrying you, yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker. Usually something can be done to help with side effects or symptoms and improve your wellbeing.

Healthy lifestyle

As well as looking after yourself in all these ways, remember that keeping our bodies healthy through leading a healthy lifestyle can also help your recovery after cancer and help restore your energy.

Drinking no or less alcohol, quitting smoking, healthy eating, moving your body and having a healthy weight will all help you to feel better after cancer.

Cancer in our mob


Where can I get help or support?