IACAN Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle for Survivorship


Board members and the panalists at the outreach program. Photo: Bijay Dixit

By Radha Rani Dixit

HOUSTON: The Indian American Cancer Network held an informative community educational outreach event at India House on Sunday, November 9 entitled Everything a Cancer Survivor and His/Her Family Should Know about Healthy Living. Kanchan Kabad, president of IACAN introduced the event by reiterating the goals and vision of the organization.  The vision that no Indian American will take the cancer journey alone and that IACAN will spread cancer awareness by engaging in educational outreach events for the community.  IACAN has also formed a cancer survivors network to help with emotional support and patient navigation for newly diagnosed patients who may need assistance in different areas.  Free yoga classes for cancer survivors are held every Thursday evening at a Sugar Land location.  Kanchan announced that the SAHNA (South Asian Health Needs Assessment) survey was complete and the results would be released at India House on February 8, 2015.

The first speaker and moderator of the afternoon’s event, Dr. Polly Niravath, an assistant professor of breast oncology at Baylor College of Medicine was very enthusiastic to see the community engaging in the topic of cancer as it is a disease not easily addressed in the community.  She stated that the main objective for the afternoon was cancer survivorship and healthy lifestyle habits. Screening mammograms are of prime importance in breast cancer care.   In simple terms, if you catch it early through screening you may be able to cure it.  She emphasized the importance of exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight, as an example, one should try to  walk at least three to five hours a week.  Losing weight and exercising helps regulate blood pressure, sugar levels, bone, heart, mental, and overall health.  BMI should be within the range of 20 and 25.  A low calorie healthy diet should be consumed and alcohol should be limited to less than three glasses of wine per week.

Luis Rustveld, PhD, a licensed dietician and assistant professor from Baylor College of Medicine spoke about tips for healthy eating.  Some strategies to prevent weight gain include drinking 8, 8oz glasses of water, monitoring portion control, avoid eating while watching tv or talking on the phone, limiting intake of juice to one per day, eating a balaced diet, and exercising regularly.  An example of a good balanced meal would include a half plate of nonstarchy vegetables, a fourth plate of grains, and a fourth plate of meat or meat substitute.  Fruits and yogurt are also beneficial.  He addressed behavior modification and the importance of getting at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep.

Anna Lisa de Joya, PT,  residency director for neurologic physical therapy residency program at  TIRR Memorial Herman spoke about the importance of staying active .  Exercise is FREE and it works so everyone should avail of its benefits.  Cancer survivorship starts upon diagnosis not after treatment, therefore she encouraged patients to avoid inactivity and return to normal activity as soon as possible. Nutrition, exercise including strength training and a healthy lifestyle must be priorities for all survivors in order to combat side effects of treatment such as fatigue and feelings of sadness.  She cited studies which demonstrated that regular exercise could reduce the risk of cancer while being overweight could increase the risk of cancer.

Smitha Mallaiah, DYS, a mind body intervention specialist with the integrative medicine program at MD Anderson Cancer Center discussed living the anticancer mind through yoga.  She described the mind body link and how stress can cause a number of health problems including its impact on tumors and their ability to grow and spread.  Unmanaged stress leads to helplessness and hopelessness which is associated with high rates of death.  Yoga benefits include improvements in sleep, lowering fatigue, and regulating stress.   Yoga at the physical level helps to loosen joints, stretch muscles, and provides deep rest to the body system.  The mind should be involved with each movement while the breath, body, and mind work in unison for a complete experience.  She encourged long slow deep breaths and mindfulness in the flow. One’s own perception and state of mind can make changes in one’s physical body.  Yoga should become a way of life.  Positive emotions should be reinforced.  The mind body breath connection results in a relaxed body and a calm happy mind.  She summed it up, “one should evolve from regular medication to regular meditation.”  She demonstrated a quick meditation session with the audience before the question answer session and healthy snacks to end the afternoon.

 For further information about IACAN email: iacannetwork@gmail.com phone: 713-370-3489 www.iacannetwork.org