Swimming is a great way to have fun and cool off in the summer. It’s also a good source of full-body exercise. It’s important for cancer patients and cancer survivors to stay active during and after treatment. Daily exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, combat fatigue, and build lean muscles. Exercise has also been shown to decrease the risk of recurrence for cancer survivors. However, before jumping in the nearest pool or lake, if you are a cancer patient or cancer survivor, there are some things you need to consider:
- First, always check with your doctor before swimming or doing any exercise program.
- Cancer treatment can lower your body’s ability to fight infections public pools, rivers, lakes, and oceans can carry bacteria that may cause infection. Be especially careful if you have any open cuts, sores, or surgical wounds. Some doctors recommend avoiding pools completely when receiving chemotherapy. If swimming in a friend or family member’s private pool check the contamination levels of the water on the day you plan to swim.
- If you are going through radiation treatment, you should avoid chlorinated pools. The chlorine can be irritating to the radiated skin.
- Cancer treatment can weaken your muscles, and if you have not been eating well or getting as much exercise, you may have lost lean muscle mass. Therefore, you may not be as strong as you used to be. If you are swimming in the running water such as a river or ocean be especially cautious of strong currents and rip tides. Even if you are just relaxing on a boat with friends, be sure to wear a lifejacket at all times.
- Never swim alone. Always go with family or friend so if something goes wrong, someone can call for help.
- If you plan to be outdoors, always wear sunscreen! Reapply every thirty minutes to an hour, and reapply after swimming. You usually need more sunscreen than you think you do so be sure to lather on a lot of SPF30 or higher.
- If you have a port, ostomy, or feeding tube, make sure to take appropriate measures to keep the area dry using barriers and tape like the ones you use when showering.
- If you are a breast cancer survivor who underwent a mastectomy as part of treatment, look for post-mastectomy swimwear. Many swimsuit shops online offer a wide variety of post-mastectomy swimwear with pockets for prostheses or built in padding.
- Stay hydrated! You may not realize that you are thirsty while taking a dip in cool water, but swimming is still exercise. Make sure to take breaks for healthy drinks and snacks.
If you get the all clear from your doctor to swim, get out there and have fun! If not, find other ways to enjoy the summer. Catch a summer blockbuster at the movie theater. Sit out on the porch with friends and share an iced tea. Go for a walk around the park or a community garden. Invite your family over for ice cream. What do you like to do for fun in the summer? Let us know in the comments below!