Survivors of cancer are diagnosed with diabetes at alarmingly high rates. While researchers have yet to determine any fact-based evidence to support this clinically, they do know that diabetes can arise for a number of different treatment-associated reasons. Luckily, some of these contributing factors are under the patients’ control.

What is Diabetes?

As explained by the National Institutes of Health, diabetes is the condition of having a high level of blood sugar. It indicates that the body isn’t producing enough insulin or isn’t using insulin efficiently. Some symptoms of diabetes are increased hunger, increased thirst and frequent urination.

When prolonged, diabetes can have serious consequences such as vision loss, heart trouble and limb amputation. Some diabetes patients control their condition with daily insulin injections.

Radiation and Diabetes

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine(August, 2009) suggests that abdominal irradiation, cranial irradiation and total body irradiation increase the risk of a cancer patients developing diabetes by 90%. One explanation is that radiation damages the pancreas, which secretes the insulin needed to metabolize sugars. Another theory is that radiation alters fatty tissues to make them more insulin-resistant.

New Dietary Habits

Side effects of cancer like nausea, mouth sores and dry mouth can change a person’s eating habits. Watch your new diet carefully for sugar. For example, dry mouth is a common side effect of chemotherapy used in mesothelioma treatment. Many patients and survivors therefore drink a lot of fluids – and if that fluid is sugary soda or fruit juice, the sugars quickly pile up and make diabetes more likely.

It’s a good idea to drink liquids that are high in citric acid. These stimulate saliva production and make your mouth feel more comfortable. Try drinking low-sugar lemonade or orange juice, water with a twist of lime, or tea with lemon. Sucking on ice or a low-sugar ice pop is another good alternative to drinking sugary beverages.

Cancer and Diabetes: Similar Risk Factors

Many mesothelioma patients developed cancer because of asbestos exposure or other hazardous materials. Still, it bears mentioning that diabetes and some cancers have common risk factors. Examples include obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity.

Although cancer patients were once advised to “save their energy for healing,” people now understand that physical activity can help a person to overcome cancer and prevent relapses. Talk with your doctor about the best combination of rest and activity.

Medication and Diabetes

It’s possible that some cancer medications raise patients’ odds for developing diabetes. When it comes to new medications, not enough time has elapsed for researchers to give a definitive answer. It’s therefore an especially good idea to exercise and maintain a well-balanced diet even if you feel ill. A nutrition counselor can help you choose foods that won’t trigger discomfort.