Madrid, August 5 2019:- The arrival of summer is good news for most people, who associate the summer months with holidays, but for part of society summer can be a problem. The increase in UV rays and heat can make the day-to-day of the elderly uncomfortable, but also for cancer patients, who face summer from a weaker point of view than their healthy counterparts.
To help these people enjoy the summer as much as possible, the Nursing Department at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid has drawn up some guidelines with recommendations and tips to help cancer patients get the most out of the summer months. So, during the holiday period the best thing is to carry on as usual – if the patient is used to travelling, then he/she should continue doing so, with certain precautions.
Included in the guidelines is the importance of following the Mediterranean diet, eating at least four or five pieces of fruit a day and drinking plenty of liquid. On the other hand, among the ‘dangers’ these patients must beware of are air-conditioning and conditions like colitis and diarrhea. Specifically, the decalogue includes the following ten recomendations:
1. Avoid direct exposure to air-conditioning. Direct exposure to the cold airflow of air-conditioning can be very dangerous for the cancer patient, who may suffer from muscle spasms, cramps or even respiratory infections, which, in the case of cancer patients, can complicate the treatment and prognosis of the disease. Furthermore, cold drinks should be avoided as they can cause some of these side effects.
2. Protect your skin with products with high protection factors, at least Factor 50. Although cancer patients must protect their skin from the sun throughout the year due to increased photosensitivity caused by their treatment, like chemotherapy, increased UV rays during summer months make it even more crucial to take precautions. Avoid exposure to the sun between 10.00 and 16,00, when UV rays are strongest.
3. Use accessories like good-quality sunglasses, hats or scarves. In addition to protecting the skin with creams or sprays, good-quality sunglasses protect the eyes and some kind of headwear is essential to counteract the effects of photosensitivity.
4. Drink at least two liters of water a day. As a result of treatment, cancer patients usually suffer from dry, irritated mucous membranes, which means they must drink even more water than a healthy person in summer to ensure they are adequately hydrated. Dr. Gonzalez says that an infusion might be taken instead of water although a sugary drink is never a substitute for water.
5.Follow the Mediterranean diet. A balanced, varied diet with olive oil, meat, fish, vegetables, etc. is one of the best ways to keep healthy and therefore, to improve the health of cancer patients. Anemia caused by the toxicity of treatments is one of the most common side effects in cancer patients, for whom a strict Mediterranean diet is the best tool in the fight against cancer.
Furthermore, contrary to common belief, sugar does not ‘feed’ cancer, so there is no reason it should be completely removed from the Mediterranean diet.
6. Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. In summer we perspire more and therefore, we lose more water, more mineral salts and even more vitamins, all of which may pose a risk for weaker people, like cancer patients. For that reason, consuming fruit and vegetables, rich in water and vitamins, is essential. These foods can also help patients by relieving the side effects of their treatment.
7. Drink coffee and tea to prevent episodes of low blood pressure. Due to increased perspiration, cancer patients, who are often weaker and underweight in comparison with a healthy person, are more likely to suffer drops in blood pressure and dizziness. Many drugs contribute to episodes of low blood pressure, so it is important not only to be well hydrated, but to have drinks like coffee or tea.
8. Be active. Doing exercise in summer, avoiding the times when UV rays are strongest, can be very beneficial to cancer patients, although it is also important to be clear about what type of exercise the patient can or should do, taking into consideration the type and stage of tumor they have. So, for example, a recently diagnosed patient is not the same as a patient in a wheel chair, although in the latter case, it is recommended the patient at least exercises by getting out the chair. Doing exercise in water will reduce the risk of injury.
9. Tell your medical team if you develop diarrhea or symptoms of colitis. Some of the most common side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy or immunotherapy are diarrhea and colitis, which can become particularly worrying in summer, when it is hotter and there is much more chance of dehydration, especially in older patients. If these symptoms are present, it is crucial to see a specialist because, in spite of being severe, it is relatively straightforward to deal with, as long as the doctor knows about the patient’s cancer treatment.
10. Do not nap and keep to a good sleep routine. Many cancer patients nap during the day, especially in summer when hot weather increases fatigue, but this is not recommended as it upsets the body’s routine and may lead to insomnia at night. So, even if the patient must be in bed and/or has nothing particular to do to stay active, it is important not to sleep during the day to be able to rest well at night.
Through these guidelines, the Nursing Department at MD Anderson Madrid aims to help cancer patients live normally and with a better quality of life, and to stop the disease being an obstacle to enjoying summertime.