Colorectal Cancer: Healthy Living Tips



  • Drink plenty of water. Fluids keep the stool soft. Try to drink 6-8 glasses (8 oz) of fluid per day.
  • Eat foods high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and beans. High-fiber foods stimulate the intestines to move.
  • Avoid cheese, meat, processed foods and other low-fiber foods that cause constipation.
  • If your doctor approves, exercise daily. Exercise helps stimulate digestion and prevents constipation. Moderate activity such as walking will help.
  • If nothing else, your doctor can prescribe laxatives. These are available in liquid, tablet, gum, powder and granule forms. They should only be used for a short period of time in order to retrain the bowel to pass stools naturally.

Upset Stomach and Diarrhea

  • Drink plenty of fluids slowly and frequently.
  • Avoid drinking coffee, tea and alcohol. Drink more fluids, such as water and broth, to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid sweets as well as fried, greasy or spicy foods.
  • Eat low-fiber foods such as eggs, potatoes, white bread, or creamed cereals and foods included in the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast).
  • Avoid dairy products such as milk, cheese or ice cream.
  • Avoid gas-producing vegetables, dried fruit, fiber cereals, seeds, popcorn, nuts, corn and dried beans.

Rest and Relaxation

  • Get a good night’s sleep: about 8 hours is usually recommended for adults. Keep a regular bedtime schedule.
  • Do something relaxing before bedtime: read, watch TV or take a bath.
  • Learn and practice a relaxation technique; it will help you emotionally as well as physically.
  • If you do not fall asleep within 15 minutes, get up and do something else and try again later.
  • Don’t eat, drink fluids or exercise close to your bedtime.
  • Take short rests when you feel tired. Avoid long naps during the day so that you can sleep well at night.
  • Take action to treat a poor appetite, because eating improperly can make you tired.
  • If your fatigue is severe of chronic, ask for help with routine tasks that can drain your energy, such as grocery shopping or housework. Some people reduce their hours at work.

Fluid in the Abdomen (Ascites)

  • Reduce the amount of sodium and restricting the intake of fluids can help, although this regimen may be unpleasant and difficult to follow.
  • Diuretics are medications that reduce the amount of water in the body. Although diuretics are effective and well tolerated in most people, they may cause unpleasant side effects in some people, including loss of sleep, skin problems, fatigue, low blood pressure and problems with self-esteem.
  • If ascites is causing respiratory (breathing) problems or the diuretic treatments stops working, therapeutic paracentesis may be recommended.
  • Chemotherapy is appropriate only for people with certain cancers, such as lymphoma or breast and ovarian cancers; however, chemotherapy is rarely used to manage ascites.
  • In rare instances, surgery may be required, which involves placing a shunt (a device used to bypass or divert fluid from one place to another) or catheter (a small tube placed into a vein temporarily) to drain fluids from the abdomen.

Mouth or Lip Sores (Mucositis)

  • Use lip balm or another lip moisturizer.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and brush your teeth after eating.
  • Use mouthwash that does not contain alcohol.
  • Keep your mouth and lips clean and moist.
  • Frequently rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
  • Avoid foods that might irritate your mouth such as spicy foods, orange juice and pretzels.
  • Use sugar-free candies or gums to increase moisture in your mouth.
  • Ask your doctor about topical mouth medications.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol, if necessary.

Nausea and Vomiting

  • Ask your doctor about getting a prescription medicine to control nausea and vomiting. Them make sure you take it as directed. If you are vomiting and cannot take the medicine, call your doctor or nurse again.
  • If you have bothersome nausea and vomiting even though you are taking your medicine, call your doctor or nurse. Your medicine can be changed.
  • Try eating foods and drinking beverages that were easy to take or made you feel better when you’ve had the flu or were nauseated from stress. These may be bland foods, sour candy, pickles, dry crackers, ginger ale, flat soda or others.
  • Do not eat fatty or fried foods. The smells from hot foods may make your nausea worse.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse if he or she can help you learn a relaxation exercise. This may make you feel less anxious and more in control and decrease your nausea.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about using acupressure bands on your wrists, which may help decrease your nausea.


  • Take pain medications regularly; do not wait for your pain to become severe (take steps to avoid constipation, a common side effect of pain medications).
  • Change your activity level. See if you feel better if you rest more or move around more – either may help.
  • Distract yourself with music, funny videos or computer games.
    Use relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, or guided imagery exercises. Ask your doctor or nurse where you can learn more about these.
  • Perform light exercise.

Sexual Dysfunction

  • Looking better may actually help you to feel better. Try to maintain the same grooming habits, fashion, hairstyle etc. as you did before the diagnosis.
  • Plan special activities for both the days when you are feeling well and those when you aren’t.
  • Acknowledge that cancer and treatment can cause shifts in mood.
  • Enjoy the days when you’re feeling well. On those days that are difficult, keep a positive outlook – plan all you’d like to do as soon as you feel better.
  • If you need help with clothes and hair and other aspects of your appearance, don’t hesitate to ask for it.
  • If you think you may want to have children after treatment and the cancer treatment is likely to cause sterility, you may want to bank eggs or sperm. However, you must do this before you receive treatment.
  • Talk to your doctor about your wish to have children in advance, so that you can take steps to ensure that you have this choice later.
  • There are now several drug treatments for men with erectile dysfunction. There are also medications available to help women deal with the symptoms of menopause.
  • Make sure to tell your doctor what symptoms you are experiencing so that proper steps can be taken to find some relief.

Hand-Foot Syndrome

  • Avoid long exposure of hands and feet to hot water such as washing dishes, long showers, or tub baths.
  • Short showers in tepid water will reduce exposure of the soles of your feet to the drug.
  • Dishwashing gloves should not be worn, as the rubber will hold heat against your palms.
  • Avoid increased pressure on the soles of the feet or palms of hands.
  • No jogging, aerobics, power walking or jumping and avoid long days of walking.
  • You should also avoid using garden tools, household tools such as screwdrivers and other tasks where you are squeezing your hand on hard surfaces.
  • Using knives to chop food may also cause excessive pressure and friction on your palms.
  • Cold may provide temporary relief for pain and tenderness caused by hand-foot syndrome.
  • Placing the palms or bottoms of your feet on an ice pack or a frozen bag of peas may be very comforting. Alternate on and off for 15-20 minutes at a time.
  • Rubbing lotion on your palms and soles should be avoided during the same period, although keeping these areas moist is very important between treatments.
  • Emollients such as Aveeno, Lubriderm, Udder cream and bag balm provide excellent moisturizer to your hands and feet.
  • Over the counter pain relievers such as Tylenol may be helpful to relieve discomfort associated with hand-foot syndrome. Check with your doctor.
  • Taking vitamin B6 may be beneficial. Check with your doctor.


  • Take short rests when you are tired. Avoid long naps during the day so that you can sleep well at night.
  • Add mild exercise, such as walking, to your daily routine.
  • Balance activity with rest. Save your energy for important tasks.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration adds to fatigue.
  • Talk with your doctor about medications or treatments that may help manage your anemia.

Blocked GI (Intestinal Tract)

  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Avoid smoking.

Neutropenia (Low Red Blood Count)

  • Call your doctor if you experience a fever over 100.4oF or higher, severe chills, a cough, pain, a burning sensation during urination or any sores or redness.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowds and people with colds.
  • Immediately clean and protect cuts.
  • Check with your doctor before getting immunization shots.
  • Take a bath or shower daily using mild soap.
  • Use lotion to prevent your skin from cracking.

Numbness, Tingling or Muscle Weakness in Your Hands or Feet (Peripheral Neuropathy)

  • Immediately tell your doctor about these side effects – your doctor may find it necessary to adjust the dose.
  • Massage your hands and feet to stimulate nerves.
  • Apply moisturizing cream/lotion to your hands and feet.
  • Keep your body warm.
  • Avoid activities in extreme weather.
  • Avoid wearing tight footwear.
  • Avoid standing for long periods of time and walk only short distances.
  • Take extra precaution near fires, hot water or other sources of heat.
  • Avoid using an ice pack on any part of your body.
  • Take extra care walking and moving so that you do not fall.
  • If your daily activities become too difficult, ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist or a physical therapist. They can help teach you new ways of doing things so that you can stay as active as possible.
  • Take extra care when driving (you may have trouble feeling the gas and brake pedals). As friends and family to drive you places.

Lowering Blood Pressure

  • Maintain a healthy weight, and lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Be more physically active.
  • Choose foods lower in salt and sodium. Use herbs, spices and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking and at the table instead of salt. Rinse canned foods like tuna to remove some sodium.
  • If you drink alcohol beverages, do so in moderation.