Proper nutrition during cancer treatment is an essential component of therapy. It is not only important for good health, but also important to help the patient feel stronger and better during the course of therapy. When the body does not get the appropriate nutrition it needs, it may cause malnutrition. The right amount of vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates are an important part of daily intake. This can help improve and maintain weight and strength, keep body tissue healthy, and fight infection. This is also very important in getting through therapy. Some cancer treatments (chemotherapy and/or radiation) work better when the patient is well nourished and gets enough calories and protein in the diet. Patients who are well nourished may have a better prognosis and quality of life.
The side effects of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy may cause a person to eat less and lose weight. These changes are due to normal cells being destroyed, as well as cancer cells, which can change appetite and sense of taste and smell.
General nutrition recommendations during cancer treatment
- Maintain a healthy weight. For many people, this means avoiding weight loss by getting enough calories on a daily basis.
- Get essential nutrients the body needs, such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and enough water.
- High protein and calorie rich foods.
- Dietary supplements, such as multivitamins and calcium.
- Liquid meal replacements and energy drinks-dense beverages and snacks, such as the BRAT supplement, Ensure and even Gatorade and Pedialyte.
- When counts are low: avoid fresh fruits, vegetables, raw meat or fish. Canned or cooked fruits and vegetables are okay.
- Some patients require feeding tubes for nutrition. This strategy is for those who are exceptionally underweight and not getting enough nutrition before cancer surgery, or those whose digestive tracts are not functioning (as in people who have had parts of the stomach, pancreas, or colon removed by surgery).
Diet and nutrition after treatment
After treatment ends, a person’s follow-up care should include monitoring for recurrence (return of the cancer) or the development of a second cancer. We recommend that survivors follow common recommendations for good health, such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying physically active.
Foods to prevent risk of cancer
- High fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes protect against colon, bladder, prostate, and esophageal cancer.
- Cruciferous vegetables (kale, cauliflower, broccoli) and foods rich in Vitamin C may also help reduce risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas.
- Antioxidants: Vitamin A and E, including green tea are natural antioxidants for the body.
Our staff is here to help you maintain a healthy diet throughout your treatment so you can face your illness at your best. This includes identifying possible nutrition deficiencies, planning out a diet, discussing ways to counteract a lack of appetite, sustaining a healthy weight, and choosing foods that agree with you while also providing the nutrients you need.