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Wed, Jul 29 8:00am · Choosing a Weight Loss Diet That's Right for You in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_520169236Article contributed by Mayo Clinic staff, Madelynn Strong, Registered Dietician

Maintaining a healthy body weight can help reduce the risk of many types of cancer – including post-menopausal breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer.  With so many different types of diets for weight loss, how do you choose the right one for you?  Remember, there is no single diet plan that works for all individuals.  It’s important to find a plan that works for your lifestyle!

Before starting any weight loss plan, consider checking in with your physician.  Your physician may want to review your medical history and assist with providing guidance on the program best suited for you.  Additionally, they may want to discuss strategies on how to best incorporate safe physical activity into your routine.  Consider asking your physician for a referral to a registered dietitian for additional support.

When selecting a diet, consider the following questions:

  1. Is it sustainable and easy to follow? Many diets promise rapid weight loss through restrictive diet plans.  While this rapid weight loss can be motivating, it is typically not sustainable over time.  A successful weight loss plan should be one that you can see yourself following long-term without feeling deprived.  A sustainable diet plan should also be easy to follow – plans that are rigid or difficult to follow tend to be less successful.
  1. Does it include all food groups? Diet plans exist that restrict whole food groups, or even multiple food groups – which may lead to nutrient deficiencies over time.  A healthy diet pattern includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, lean protein, nuts, seeds and beans/legumes.  Avoid any diet that restricts whole food groups.
  1. Is it compatible with your lifestyle or family’s needs? A diet pattern that requires special foods or significant food preparation time may be difficult to follow.  It should include foods that you can easily find in your local grocery store and require as much preparation time as you are able to comfortably provide.  Also consider if you will need to prepare separate meals for other family members and for yourself.
  1. Does it follow cancer prevention guidelines and dietary guidelines? There is strong evidence that a healthy diet – including foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – can help reduce the risk of cancer or cancer recurrence.  These foods should not be avoided or restricted on a healthy weight loss plan.  Many popular diets encourage a high intake of protein, specifically meats, which is not compatible with cancer prevention.
  1. Does the diet have any red flags? Use caution with diets that promise a quick fix or magic foods.  Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes or magic foods.  These promises are typically associated with fad diets.

What Are the Options?

Use the following chart to compare various diet plans:


Remember, there is no single plan that works for all individuals.  However, a few balanced diet plans that you might consider are the DASH diet, Flexitarian diet, Mediterranean diet and the WW program (formerly the Weight Watchers program).  These are nutritionally balanced diets that emphasize lifestyle changes and are consistent with nutrition guidelines for cancer prevention.

DASH diet:  Nutritionally complete diet, designed to control high blood pressure and support heart health but it is also compatible with cancer prevention guidelines.

Mediterranean diet:  Primarily a plant focused diet with limited amounts of fish, poultry, healthy fats and low fat dairy. This diet is routinely ranked #1 as a top diet for health.

Flexitarian diet (semi-vegetarian):  Emphasizes plant foods but allows small amounts of meat, poultry and fish.  This can be great choice for people who do not want to give up meat.

WW (Formerly Weight Watchers):  One of the best commercial weight loss programs.  On this plan, no foods are forbidden and healthy foods are prioritized.

The Keys to Success

The key to successful weight loss is developing long-term changes to our food and exercise habits.  If a diet makes you feel deprived of your favorite foods or if it leaves you feeling hungry, it may not viable long-term.   Make sure your goals are realistic, aim for a weight loss of about ½ to 2 pounds per week.  Also, engage the help of family members and friends – they can help keep you motivated!  Finally, consider meeting with a registered dietitian for personalized guidance and support on your weight loss journey.

Wed, Jul 15 9:00am · Healthy Weight and Survivorship in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_1101496544Article contributed by Mayo Clinic staff, Jackie See, Registered Dietician.

After a diagnosis of cancer, many people wonder what they can do to prevent recurrence or the growth of cancer.  You may or may not be aware that being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing 13 types of cancers.  Some of the most common cancers are postmenopausal breast, endometrium, colon, kidney and others.  Indeed, being overweight or obese is one of the leading causes of cancer and is also believed to affect survival.  If you are overweight, losing some weight may be one of the best things you can do to prevent recurrence or the growth of cancer.

Understanding weight and cancer risk

What is obesity and how does it lead to cancer?  When a person is overweight or obese, it means that they have too much body fat in relation to lean body tissue or muscle.  Weight is often measured with body mass index (BMI).  BMI is the ratio of a person’s weight and height.  A healthy BMI is usually between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI between 25 and 29.5 is considered overweight, while of BMI of 30 or higher is obese.  The higher your BMI the more likely you are to get certain types of cancer.

Too much body fat can increase cancer growth or outcome in several ways:

  • Fat cells produce estrogen, and high levels of estrogen can promote the growth of some cancers such as breast and endometrial.
  • Fat tissue produces proteins that cause inflammation, which can also promote cancerous changes in cells and tissues.
  • Overweight or obese people often have higher blood levels of insulin and insulin growth factors that can encourage the growth of cancerous cells.

Research suggests that fat in your abdomen is even more active in producing these cancer growth stimulants.  So, people who carry their excess weight in the abdomen are at greater risk.

It’s not too late

Maybe you are wondering if it does any good to lose weight at this point.  Lifestyle’s impact on survivorship is a fast growing area of study.  Research suggests that maintaining a healthy weight is associated with lower risk of cancer returning or dying as a result of cancer.

Perhaps you are discouraged after trying to lose weight for many years before being diagnosed with cancer.  Losing weight is challenging.  You may feel you have failed after so many attempts to lose weight but maybe you just have not found what works for you yet.  Talk with your doctor or ask for a referral to a registered dietitian. Many people find it easier to lose weight if they have a structured program and support.

Even if you do not reach an ideal weight, a weight loss of 5-10% of your body weight (i.e. 10-20 pounds in a person that weighs 200 pounds) is sufficient to reduce inflammation and lower levels of estrogen, insulin and other factors that promote cancer growth.

What you can do now 

The first step is to talk with your healthcare team about your weight.  They can help you determine if you are at a healthy weight and what impact your weight may have on your health.

Reducing the calories you eat and drink and increasing physical activity are the main ways to manage or lose weight.  The following lifestyle changes can help:

  • Fill your plate with a variety of vegetables and other plant-based foods that can help you stay full while reducing calories.
  • Avoid sugary drinks, including fruit juice.
  • Limit foods high in fat and sugar, such as desserts, fried foods, candy and chips. These foods contain a lot of calories in a small portion.
  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day.

As cancer survivors are living longer after diagnosis, these recommendations also reduce the risk of developing other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.  That is important because many long-term cancer survivors are at increased risk of heart disease.


Sun, Jul 12 11:58am · Cancer Education Classes Online in Cancer Education Center




We are excited to share many of the classes we offer in the Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Cancer Education Center in Rochester, MN are now available here!  COVID-19 has the majority of us sheltering in to minimize our contact and exposure to others.  We are looking for ways to stay connected, occupied and informed from the comfort and safety of our own dwellings.  If you are looking for education, tips and resources on a variety of topics, please explore the content under our “MORE” tab.






These classes include a video featuring our educators as well as links to patient education materials typically distributed in class.

Tell us which class(es) you found helpful!

Tue, Jun 16 2:00pm · No gym? No equipment? No problem. Tips for staying active around the house. in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_649981093Article contributed by Mayo Clinic Wellness Assessment Specialist, Sara Mansfield


Staying active is important for those living with and beyond cancer. However, getting the recommended amount of activity can be a challenge in these uncertain times. The landscape of group exercise and fitness centers will certainly change as a result of new considerations in personal safety.

How can we re-think our approach to movement? One answer lies in being fully present in everyday tasks.  Connecting with the ability of your body to carry you through your day will open up a world of wellness. Let’s start by getting creative with opportunities around the house. Below are some ideas to do just that.


countCaptureCounter Push Ups – Any time you are near a sturdy waist-high surface with time to kill, try some push-ups. Waiting for water to boil, the toaster to pop up or even the water to get hot for a shower; these are all opportunities for movement.





Step Ups – Hold on to the stair rail and pause on each step. Lower your heel off the edge of the step then rise up on your toes for a full challenge for the calves.




ladyCaptureRising from the Floor –  No matter your fitness level, getting up from the floor is an important skill to have.  Incorporate this movement as a practice to help find the best, most safe way for you. Make sure you have something stable to hold on to for support if needed.


catcowCaptureRocking and Rolling – These movements will help loosen your back and hips. Gently lean back into your hips as you press into your hands, then come forward and round your back.


doorwayCaptureDoorway Stretches – Being mindful when passing through any doorway in your house opens up an opportunity to counter act some of the forward postures that appear with too much slouching and screen time.  Anchor your hands (both or just one at a time) on any part of the door frame and gently step through the door.  You will feel an opening in your chest and shoulder.



bendoverCaptureTake a Bow – Stretch your back and arms by anchoring your hands on a counter or back of a sturdy chair. Slowly walk backwards away from your hands until you feel slight tension in your shoulders and/or lower back.





Chair Squats – Any time you get up from a chair, try to use your leg strength to elevate from below rather than rely on arm rests or swinging momentum.








One Foot Stands – There are so many opportunities to challenge balance. Stand tall on 1 leg with support, relying on your balance and leg strength. You can experiment with how much you rely on your support by holding on with a full grip, light grip or just a few fingertips. Every countertop presents this opportunity.





Vacuum “Lunges” – Don’t get in a rush. Pushing a vacuum too quickly can put uneven pressure on the muscles of the back and hips. Move slowly and lean into each push with your legs rather than bending at the waist.






wallangelCaptureWall Angels – Prolonged sitting can result in a forward, rounded posture.  Look at a blank wall as a way to counteract this forward posture. Stand with your back against the wall and try to make a “snow angel” imprint on the wall by sliding your outstretched arms along the wall by your sides.




neckCaptureNeck Retractors – Interrupt screen time periodically with a neck strengthener. Stand up against a wall, keep your chin even with the floor and slowly pull the back of your neck (base of your skull) towards the wall. This can be done in a chair as well.





Your most important tool is your breath. Breathing is the key to giving you more energy to complete the movements.

As you stretch, breathe evenly and never stretch to or past the point of pain. Only stretch to the point of minimal tension.

During times of tension, avoid holding your breath. This can create unwanted internal pressure and lightheadedness.

All of these practices develop a movement mindset. By widening your view of what movement is, you find that many things we do daily count as activity such as laundry, cleaning, dressing and yard work.

There is great value in being mindfully present in everything you do. What tips do you have to share for staying present and working movement into your day?



Photo credits: medbridge.com







Thu, Jun 4 3:00pm · Taking Care of Yourself & Others: Staying Connected in Tough Times in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_1677493981Article contributed by Mayo Clinic chaplain, Lora Burge.

We are social beings with a need for social interaction. This can become complicated when we are told to be socially distanced due to concern for spread of the COVID-19 virus. Social interaction and connection may need to look different than it did before COVID-19, but it can still be a meaningful and important part of your days.

Taking Care of Yourself:

  • Stay connected to yourself: As much as you can, continue your routine and self-care activities. It may seem like extra work to get up and do the full shower and get dressed routine each morning.  Remember—all of these actions help to preserve some normalcy in our day and also signal to our bodies the time of day, day of the week, etc. Sticking with these routines may seem silly, but you may find you feel a bit better as you do them. Stay connected to your regular coping strategies too: stick with the meditation, journaling, yoga and other calming practices—you may not be able to do them like you’re used to. However, the benefits you receive are more important now, than ever.
  • Stay active: Again, your preferred gym or workout regimen may be closed down. But a little bit of activity each day will go a long way. Go for a walk, pull the bike out of the garage and go for a ride, spend some time gardening in the yard. You may not get the workout intensity you’re used to, but the fresh air will do you good and it can help change the scenery.
  • Stay connected to joy: Find one thing each day to look forward to—even if it’s simple. A podcast or show episode, calling a friend, working on a project or art piece, checking on the garden, playing with young children or a pet. The days can become even more of a blur if we don’t have these moments to boost our spirits. Even if you can’t find joy inside your physical space, it’s ok to pull up a YouTube clip just because you know it will make you laugh out loud or smile when you see kittens do cute kitten things.

Caring for others:

Most of us have some level of wanting to help when big crises like this happen. Whether it’s for family that we live with, family and friends at a distance, neighbors, or coworkers that we miss, many of us have asked in recent weeks, “How can I help?” Certainly we must stick with social distancing and all safety precautions, but it’s not impossible to still care for others. And it may help brighten your day too!

  • Stay connected with technology: Now is the time to use all the technology that we have at our fingertips! Send texts, messages, emails, or call people. Take the time to set up some video calls with groups of friends. Maybe even reconnect with friends you haven’t been in touch with recently. Did you know that you can play games over Zoom? I recently had some good fun and laughs playing Taboo and similar games over a video-based call with people I don’t really even know. I would never have tried it pre-COVID-19, but has been a meaningful connection in recent days.
  • Get Creative: Consider other ways to be in touch. When was the last time you wrote a letter or a postcard? I am especially excited by any cards that come in the mail these days. Happen to have any sidewalk chalk or cardboard and markers? Write or draw an encouraging message for your neighbors as they pass or walk by. Into social media? Record yourself reading a storybook, singing a song, or curate a collection of uplifting or pretty photos and add to it daily.
  • If you have a loved one in a nursing facility or hospital: You probably cannot visit in person, but can you safely get to a sidewalk or park nearby? I’ve had a few patients say that their family ‘visited’ by calling from outside the building to wave and they all told me it was a highlight of their day to see them ‘in person.’ Again, if you have bubbles, signs or chalk handy, bring them along to up the fun factor for everyone!

Remember, these are unprecedented times so it’s okay (and encouraged!) to take unprecedented measures to care for yourself and those around you. The more creative the better. Time spent on well-being and self-care is time well-spent.

What things are you doing during this time to care for yourself or others?


Mon, May 18 4:00pm · Clearing Clutter Benefits Your Health and Well-Being in Cancer Education Center


Article contributed by guest author, Char Tarashanti, Creative Renewal presenter.

Sheltering in place offers an opportunity to make positive changes in our home environments. One challenge that we all face is the accumulation of clutter. Various types of clutter collect in various areas of our homes. Clutter impedes the flow of life force energy. Energy that we need for good health.

Before you start, set a goal for the overall effect you wish to accomplish. Then set a mini goal for each decluttering session. Write them down and check them off as they are accomplished. Celebrate every success! If you miss the mark, recommit to the plan, and try again. Decluttering is a process that takes time and perseverance.

Try to handle each item only once. Have receptacles for each type of clutter you are dismantling including a large garbage bag for throw-away items, a bag or box for give-aways and a container for a few undecided items. Date it and review in 6 months. Choose a specific place for the things that you keep. Infrequently used items should be stored out-of-sight. Keep in view only those essentials that are used on a daily, or almost daily, basis. Taking time now to organize your belongings will pay off later. What is the pay off? More time and energy for other things you need or want to do.

Below are some additional suggestions to help eliminate clutter.

  • Do not have mirrors in cluttered areas. The reflection doubles the appearance and effect of clutter. You may temporarily cover mirrors until that area has been decluttered.
  • Open windows or place a fan in the area where you are working. It will keep you more comfortable as you work. The flow of fresh air will sweep away stagnant energy.
  • Play energizing music while you declutter, any genre that appeals to you. It will lift your spirits and provide motivation to stick with the task.
  • Focus on one area at a time. It’s overwhelming to take on a large space or multiple areas all at once. Keep it manageable and fun, one drawer, one shelf at a time.
  • Set a time limit to prevent burn-out. Ten to twenty minutes a day makes a significant difference over a week’s time. If you choose to work in longer segments of time, be sure to take breaks. Stretch, drink water, breathe deeply, and enjoy the progress you’ve made.
  • Ask for help from family or friends. “Many hands make light work” applies, especially on the bigger tasks. Plus, it gets buy-in from family members to minimize future clutter. Make it a game and give accolades (or prizes) to helpers.

Your home is your sanctuary. Make it as comfortable, inviting, and efficient as possible. It will make your life easier and will conserve your energy for activities that you enjoy. A good rule of thumb: keep nothing that is not either beautiful or useful to you.

What cluttered area is calling for attention in your home to make it a more usable and enjoyable space for you and your family?



Mon, Mar 30 12:26pm · Another Reason to Wear a Mask during COVID-19 in Cancer Education Center


We are all thinking about masks these days like we never have before.  We see people out in public wearing them.  We hear every news outlet talking about how very critical they are in the medical setting.  All those who work in supply chain are feeling the demand.  Some businesses are getting very creative in changing what they manufacture to help meet the need.  We are hearing of individuals sewing masks in their homes and people are saying it is reminiscent of the Rosie the Riveter efforts seen during World War II.  There is lots of debate about what qualifies as a truly protective mask.

I heard a doctor from New York, where they are truly in an epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic, speaking of ways we can protect ourselves from infection and gave a new way of thinking about wearing a face mask.  He spoke about the transmission of the virus and what steps we can take for protection.  Number ONE on the list is WASH YOUR HANDS!  Clean hands are key in stopping transmission.  Lucky for us soap is a perfect weapon against COVID-19 as it is not very sturdy once soap and water come in contact with the virus.  As far as wearing a mask – he said that one of the really important purposes of the mask is to prevent you from touching your face or rather it makes you more aware when you do touch your face.  Very specifically our eyes, nose and mouth.  We touch our faces so much more than we realize.  Whether it is an itch, a gesture, or how we may rest our chin on our hand when listening to someone.  Watch a person in your household and see how many times they touch their face.  Of course it is easier to observe and evaluate someone else’s behavior as compared to examining our own behavior!  If you are going to the store, or some other necessary outing, it may be beneficial to wear a mask, even if it is a simple bandana to thwart your habit of touching your face.  A protective mask would be the best barrier, but if you are unable to find one, wearing an alternative will help you be more conscious of your hands.  View it as a way to cultivate a newer, healthier, protective habit for yourself.

What extra measures are you taking to protect you and your family?

Listen to this interesing podcast by Dr. Poland, an infectious disease expert at Mayo Clinic, speaking about COVID-19.

For up to date recommendations, please visit the CDC.

Talk with others who are discussing protective and coping strategies in the COVID-19 support group.