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Less than half of cancer survivors get the healthy lifestyle counseling they want from physicians

While 80 percent of cancer survivors would like their physicians to counsel them on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, less than half of those survivors receive the consultation on things such as weight loss and smoking cessation, according to a recent study in the journal Cancer.

Not only maintaining a healthy weight help prevent a cancer recurrence, but it is often linked to developing cardiovascular disease — and those who have had breast, colorectal and testicular cancer in particular have a higher likelihood of getting cardiovascular disease.

In the study of a survey of 91 physicians, 26.7 percent of oncologists and 9.7 percent of specialists recommended health promotion such as weight loss and smoking cessation to their patients, according to the study. However, 90 percent of primary care physicians discussed such aspects of healthy living to at least some of their cancer survivor patients.

Thirty oncologists; 31 specialists, including urologists, dermatologists and gynecologists; and 30 primary care physicians were questioned for the study.

Among the barriers to counseling their patients on maintaining a healthy lifestyle were time and the concern that if their patients were trying to lose weight, they may not continue to take their medication that is intended to prevent a cancer recurrence, according to the study. Another reason cited is that the advice could overwhelm patients.

The study concluded that physicians often do not also have the expertise or resources to counsel their patients on health promotion, and that further research is needed to determine whether health promotion does impact cancer survivors' adherence to their medication, as the physicians suggest.

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