All the methods of treating cancer--surgery, radiation therapy,
chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy
(immunotherapy)--are very powerful. Although these treatments
target the fast-growing cancer cells in your body, healthy cells
can also be damaged. Healthy cells that normally grow and divide
rapidly, such as those in the mouth,
hair, are often affected by cancer treatments. The damage to
healthy cells is what produces the unpleasant side effects that
cause eating problems.
Side effects of cancer treatment vary from patient to patient.
The part of the body being treated, the type and length of
treatment, and the dose of treatment determine whether side effects
The good news is that not everyone has side effects during
treatment, and most side effects go away when treatment ends. Side
effects can also be well-controlled with new drugs. Talk to your
doctor about possible side effects from your treatment and what can
be done about them.
Some eating problems are caused by the treatment itself. Other
times, patients may have trouble eating because they are upset,
worried, or afraid. Losing your appetite and nausea are two normal
responses to feeling nervous or fearful. Once you get into your
treatment period and have a better sense of what to expect and how
you will react, these anxiety-related eating problems should get
While you are in the hospital or undergoing treatment, talk to
your doctor, nurse, or a registered dietitian. They can answer your
questions and give you suggestions for specific meals, snacks, and
foods, and for dealing with any eating problems you may have. They
can also help with dietary preferences that reflect various
cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Feel free to talk to them if
problems arise during your recovery as well. Ask them what has
worked for other patients.
Remember, there aren't any hard and fast nutrition rules during
cancer treatment. Some patients may continue to enjoy eating and
have a normal appetite throughout most of their cancer treatment.
Others may have days when they don't feel like eating at all; even
the thought of food may make them feel sick. Here are some things
to keep in mind:
When you can eat, try to eat meals and snacks with sufficient
protein and calories; they will help you keep up your strength,
prevent body tissues from breaking down, and rebuild tissues that
cancer treatment may harm.
Many people find their appetite is better in the morning. Take
advantage of this and eat more then. Consider having your main meal
of the day early, and have liquid meal replacements later on if you
don't feel so interested in eating (see page 11 for more
information on liquid meal replacements).
If you don't feel well and can eat only one or two things,
stick with them until you are able to eat other foods. Try a liquid
meal replacement for extra calories and protein.
On those days when you can't eat at all, don't worry about it.
Do what you can to make yourself feel better. Come back to eating
as soon as you can, and let your doctor know if this problem
doesn't get better within a couple of days.
Try to drink plenty of
, especially on those days
when you don't feel like eating. Water is essential to your body's
proper functioning, so getting enough fluids will ensure that your
body has the water it needs. For most adults, 6-8 cups of fluid a
day are a good target. Try carrying a water bottle with you during
the day. That may help you get into the habit of drinking plenty of
Coping with Side Effects
This section offers practical hints for coping with treatment side
effects that may affect your eating. These suggestions have helped
other patients manage the same eating problems that you may have.
Try all the ideas to find what works best for you. Share your needs
and concerns with your family and friends, particularly those who
prepare meals for you.
Loss of appetite or poor appetite is one of the most common
problems that occurs with cancer and its treatment. No one knows
exactly what causes loss of appetite. It may be caused by the
treatments or by the cancer itself. Emotions such as fear or
depression can also take away a person's appetite. Ask a nurse or
social worker about ways to lessen these emotional difficulties.
Sometimes it is the side effects of treatment such as nausea,
vomiting, or changes in food's taste or smell that make a person
feel like not eating. If this is the cause, work with your doctor
or nurse to get the side effects under better control.
For some people, loss of appetite happens for just a day or two;
for others, it's an ongoing concern. Whatever the reason, here are
some suggestions that might help:
Try liquid or powdered meal replacements, such as "instant
breakfast," during times when it is hard for you to eat food.
Try frequent small meals throughout the day, rather than fewer
big ones. It may be easier to eat more that way, and you won't get
Keep snacks within easy reach so you can have something
whenever you feel like it. Cheese and crackers, muffins, ice cream,
peanut butter, fruit, and pudding are good possibilities. Take a
portable snack with you when you go out, such as peanut butter
crackers or small boxes of raisins.
Even if you don't feel like eating solid foods, try to drink
beverages during the day. Juice, soup, and other fluids like them
can give you important calories and nutrients. Milk-based drinks
also provide protein.
If possible, try having something at bedtime. It won't affect
your appetite for the next meal.
Sometimes, changing the form of a food will make it more
appetizing and help you eat better. For example, if eating whole,
fresh fruit is a problem, try mixing fruit into a milkshake.
Try softer, cool, or frozen foods, such as yogurt, milkshakes,
Take advantage of times when you do feel well, and have a
larger meal then. Many people have a better appetite first thing in
the morning, when they are well rested.
During meals, sip only small amounts because drinking may make
you feel full. If you want to have more than just a small amount to
drink, have it 30-60 minutes before or after a meal.
Make mealtimes as relaxed and pleasant as possible. Presenting
food or meals in an attractive way may also help.
If your doctor allows, have a small glass of wine or beer
during a meal. It may help to stimulate your appetite.
Regular exercise may help your appetite. Check with your doctor
to see what options are open to you.
Commercial Products to Improve Nutrition
If you cannot get enough calories and protein from your diet,
commercial meal replacements such as drinks, "shakes," and "instant
breakfast" powders may help. Other products also can be added to
any food or beverage. These supplements are high in protein and
calories and have extra
come in liquid, pudding, and powder forms. Most commercial meal
replacements contain little or no
. However, it is
important to check the label if you are sensitive to lactose. Your
nurse or a registered dietitian can tell you which products are
best for you and which ones are available in your area.
Most of these products need no refrigeration until you open
them. That means you can carry them with you and have them whenever
you feel hungry or thirsty. They are also good chilled as
between-meal or bedtime snacks. You may want to take a can with you
when you go for treatments or other times when you may have a long
Many supermarkets and drugstores carry a variety of commercial
liquid meal replacements. If you don't see these products on the
shelf, ask the store manager if they can be ordered.
Many cancer patients lose weight during their cancer treatment.
This is partly due to the effects of the cancer itself on the body.
Also, if you've lost your appetite and are eating less than usual
because of your treatment or emotional worries, you may lose
Here are three simple recipes that show you how to increase the
calories and protein of familiar foods:
For extra protein in dishes, consider adding a little nonfat
instant dry milk to scrambled eggs, soup, cereal, sauces, and
Some patients find their weight does not change during treatment.
They may even gain weight. This is particularly true for breast,
prostate, and ovarian cancer patients taking certain medications or
who are on hormone therapy or chemotherapy.
It is important not to go on a diet right away if you notice
weight gain. Instead, tell your doctor so you can find out what may
be causing this change. Sometimes, weight gain happens because
certain anticancer drugs can cause your body to hold on to excess
fluid. This condition is called
. The weight comes from
the extra water. If this is the case, your doctor may ask you to
talk with a registered dietitian for guidelines on limiting the
amount of salt you eat. This is important because salt causes your
body to hold extra water. Your doctor may also want to prescribe a
. This is a medication that causes your body to get
rid of excess fluid.
Breast cancer patients with a primary diagnosis of cancer may be
different. Over half of them may actually gain weight rather than
lose during treatment. Because of this, many of the recommendations
for breast cancer patients do emphasize a lower fat, reduced
calorie diet similar to those provided to patients after cancer
treatment has been completed (see page 37).
Weight gain may also be the result of increased appetite and
eating extra food and calories. If this is the case and you want to
stop gaining weight, here are some tips that can help. Talk to a
registered dietitian for more guidance:
Emphasize fruits, vegetables, and breads and cereals.
Choose lean meats (lean beef or pork trimmed of fat, chicken
without skin) and low-fat dairy products (skim or 1% milk, light
Cut back on added butter, mayonnaise, sweets, and other
Choose low-fat and low-calorie cooking methods (broiling,
Avoid eating high-calorie snacks between meals.
If you feel up to it, increase the amount of exercise you
Sore Mouth or Throat
Mouth sores, tender gums, and a sore throat or esophagus often
result from radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or infection. If you
have a sore mouth or gums, see your doctor to be sure the soreness
is a treatment side effect and not an unrelated dental problem. The
doctor may be able to give you medicine that will control mouth and
throat pain. Your dentist also can give you tips for the care of
your mouth. Certain foods will irritate an already tender mouth and
make chewing and swallowing difficult. By carefully choosing the
foods you eat and by taking good care of your mouth, teeth, and
gums, you can usually make eating easier. Here are some suggestions
that may help:
Try soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow, such as:
bananas, applesauce, and other soft fruits
peach, pear, and apricot nectars
cottage cheese, yogurt
mashed potatoes, noodles
macaroni and cheese
custards, puddings, and gelatin
oatmeal or other cooked cereals
pureed or mashed vegetables, such as peas and carrots
Avoid foods or liquids that can irritate your mouth. These
oranges, grapefruits, lemons, or other citrus fruit or
tomato sauces or juice
spicy or salty foods
raw vegetables, granola, toast, crackers, or other rough,
coarse, or dry foods
commercial mouthwashes that contain alcohol
Cook foods until they are soft and tender.
Cut foods into small pieces.
Use a blender or food processor to puree your food.
Mix food with butter, margarine, thin gravy, or sauce to make
it easier to swallow.
Use a straw to drink liquids.
Use a smaller-than-usual spoon, such as a baby spoon.
Try foods cold or at room temperature. Hot foods can irritate a
tender mouth and throat.
Try drinking warm bouillon or salty broth; it can soothe throat
Try sucking on ice chips.
If swallowing is hard, tilting your head back or moving it
forward may help.
If your teeth and gums are sore, your dentist may be able to
recommend a special product for cleaning your teeth.
Rinse your mouth often with water to remove food and bacteria
and to promote healing.
Ask your doctor about anesthetic lozenges and sprays that can
numb your mouth and throat long enough for you to eat meals.
Here's a simple blender recipe that's easy on a sore
Fruit and Cream
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy in the head or neck area can
reduce the flow of saliva and cause dry mouth. When this happens,
foods are harder to chew and swallow. Dry mouth also can change the
way foods taste. Some of the ideas for sore mouth and throat may
help. The suggestions below also may help you deal with dry mouth.
Have a sip of water every few minutes to help you swallow and
talk more easily. Consider carrying a water bottle with you so you
always have some handy.
Try very sweet or tart foods and beverages, such as lemonade;
these foods may help your mouth make more saliva. (Do not try this
if you also have a tender mouth or sore throat and the sweet or
tart foods make it worse.)
Suck on hard candy or popsicles or chew gum. These can help
make more saliva.
Eat soft and pureed foods, which may be easier to swallow.
Keep your lips moist with lip salves.
Moisten food with sauces, gravies, and salad dressings to make
it easier to swallow.
If your dry mouth problem is severe, ask your doctor or dentist
about products that coat, protect, and moisten your mouth and
throat. These are sometimes called "artificial saliva."
Dental and Gum Problems
Cancer and cancer treatment can cause tooth decay and other
problems for your teeth and gums. For example, radiation to the
mouth can affect your salivary glands, making your mouth dry and
increasing your risk of cavities. Changes in eating habits also may
add to the problem. Your doctor and dentist should work closely
together to fix any problems with your teeth before you start
treatment. If you eat often or eat a lot of sweets, you may need to
brush your teeth more often. Brushing after each meal or snack is a
good idea. Here are some other ideas for preventing dental
Be sure to let your doctor know about any dental problems you
Be sure to see your dentist regularly. Patients who are
receiving treatment that affects the mouth - for example, radiation
to the head and neck - may need to see the dentist more often than
Use a soft toothbrush. Ask your doctor, nurse, or dentist to
suggest a special kind of toothbrush and/or toothpaste if your gums
are very sensitive.
Rinse your mouth with warm water when your gums and mouth are
If you are eating foods high in sugar or foods that stick to
your teeth, be sure to brush or rinse your mouth afterward so that
the sugar won't damage your teeth, or use sugar-free varieties.
(Sorbitol, a sugar substitute that is contained in many sugar-free
foods, can cause diarrhea in many people. If diarrhea is a problem
for you, check the labels of sugar-free foods before you buy them
and limit your use of them.)
Changed Sense of Taste or Smell
Your sense of taste or smell may change during your illness or
treatment. Foods, especially meat or other high-protein foods, can
begin to have a bitter or metallic taste. Many foods will have less
taste. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or the cancer itself may
cause these problems. Dental problems also can change the way foods
taste. For most people, changes in taste and smell go away when
their treatment is finished.
There is no foolproof way to prevent changes to your sense of
taste or smell because each person is affected differently by
illness and treatments. However, the tips below should help if you
have this problem. (If you also have a sore mouth, sore gums, or a
sore throat, talk to your doctor, nurse, or registered dietitian.
They can suggest ways to help you without hurting the sore
Choose and prepare foods that look and smell good to you.
If red meat, such as beef, tastes or smells strange, try
chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy products, or mild-tasting fish
Help the flavor of meat, chicken, or fish by marinating it in
sweet fruit juices, sweet wine, Italian dressing, or sweet-and-sour
Try using small amounts of flavorful seasonings, such as basil,
oregano, or rosemary.
Try tart foods, such as oranges or lemonade, that may have more
taste. A tart lemon custard might taste good and will also provide
needed protein and calories. (If you have a sore mouth or throat,
tart or citrus foods might cause pain or discomfort.)
If smells bother you, try serving foods at room temperature,
turning on a kitchen fan, covering foods when cooking, and cooking
outdoors in good weather.
Try using bacon, ham, or onion to add flavor to
Visit your dentist to rule out dental problems that may affect
the taste or smell of food.
Ask your dentist or doctor about special mouthwashes and good
Nausea, with or without vomiting, is a common side effect of
surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and biological therapy.
The disease itself, or other conditions unrelated to your cancer or
treatment, may also cause nausea. Some people have nausea or
vomiting right after treatment; others don't have it until two or
three days after a treatment. Many people never experience nausea.
For those who do, nausea often goes away once the treatment is
completed. Also, there are now drugs that can effectively control
this side effect. These medications, called
often given at the beginning of a chemo-therapy session to prevent
Whatever the cause, nausea can keep you from getting enough food
and needed nutrients. Here are some ideas that can help:
Ask your doctor about antiemetics that might help you control
nausea and vomiting.
Try foods that are easy on your stomach, such as:
toast, crackers, and pretzels
angel food cake
cream of wheat, rice, or oatmeal
boiled potatoes, rice, or noodles
skinned chicken that is baked or broiled, not fried
canned peaches or other soft, bland fruits and vegetables
Avoid foods that:
are fatty, greasy, or fried
are very sweet, such as candy, cookies, or cake
are spicy or hot
have strong odors
Eat small amounts, often and slowly. Eat before you get hungry,
because hunger can make feelings of nausea stronger.
If nausea makes certain foods unappealing, then eat more of the
foods you find easier to handle.
Avoid eating in a room that's stuffy, too warm, or has cooking
odors that might disagree with you.
Drink fewer liquids with meals. Drinking liquids can cause a
full, bloated feeling.
Slowly drink or sip liquids throughout the day. A straw may
Have foods and drinks at room temperature or cooler; hot foods
may add to nausea.
Don't force yourself to eat favorite foods when you feel
nauseated. This may cause a permanent dislike for those foods.
Rest after meals, because activity may slow digestion. It's
best to rest sitting up for about an hour after meals.
If nausea is a problem in the morning, try eating dry toast or
crackers before getting up.
Wear loose-fitting clothes.
If nausea occurs during radiation therapy or chemotherapy,
avoid eating for 1 to 2 hours before treatment.
Try to keep track of when your nausea occurs and what causes it
(specific foods, events, surroundings). If possible and if it
helps, change your diet or schedule. Share the information with
your doctor or nurse.
Vomiting may follow nausea and may be brought on by treatment, food
odors, gas in the stomach or bowel, or motion. In some people,
certain associations or surroundings, such as the hospital, may
cause vomiting. As with nausea, some people have vomiting right
after treatment, while others don't have it until a day or more
If vomiting is severe or lasts for more than a day or two,
contact your doctor. He or she may give you an
medication to control nausea and vomiting.
Very often, if you can control nausea, you can prevent vomiting.
At times, though, you may not be able to prevent either. Relaxation
exercises or meditation may help you. These usually involve deep
rhythmic breathing and quiet concentration, and can be done almost
anywhere. If vomiting does occur, try these suggestions to help
prevent further episodes:
Do not eat or drink anything until you have the vomiting under
Once the vomiting is under control, try small amounts of clear
liquids, such as water or bouillon. Begin with 1 teaspoonful every
10 minutes, gradually increasing the amount to 1 tablespoon every
20 minutes. Finally, try 2 tablespoons every 30 minutes.
When you are able to keep down clear liquids, try a full-liquid
diet or a
. Continue taking small amounts as often
as you can keep them down. If you feel okay, gradually work up to
your regular diet. If you have a hard time digesting milk, you may
want to try a soft diet instead of a full-liquid diet, because a
full-liquid diet includes a lot of milk products. Ask a registered
dietitian for information about a soft diet.
Diarrhea may have several causes, including chemotherapy, radiation
therapy to the abdomen, infection, food sensitivities, and
emotional upset. Work with your doctor to identify the cause of
your diarrhea so that it can be successfully treated.
During diarrhea, food passes quickly through the bowel before
your body has a chance to absorb enough vitamins, minerals, and
water. This may cause
, which means that your
body does not have enough water to work well. Long-term or severe
diarrhea may cause problems, so contact your doctor if the diarrhea
is severe or lasts for more than a couple of days. Here are some
ideas for coping with diarrhea:
Drink plenty of fluids to replenish what you lose with the
Eat small amounts of food throughout the day instead of three
Eat plenty of foods and liquids that contain
, two important minerals that help your body work
properly. These minerals are often lost during diarrhea. Good
high-sodium liquids include bouillon or fat-free broth. Foods high
in potassium that don't cause diarrhea include bananas, peach and
apricot nectar, and boiled or mashed potatoes. Sports drinks
contain both sodium and potassium and have easily absorbable forms
Try these foods:
yogurt, cottage cheese
rice, noodles, or potatoes
farina or cream of wheat
eggs (cooked until the whites are solid; not fried)
smooth peanut butter
canned, peeled fruits and well-cooked vegetables
skinned chicken or turkey, lean beef, or fish (broiled or
baked, not fried)
greasy, fatty, or fried foods if they make your diarrhea
raw vegetables and the skins, seeds, and stringy fibers of
high-fiber vegetables, such as broccoli, corn, dried beans,
cabbage, peas, and cauliflower
Avoid very hot or cold food or beverages. Drink liquids that
are at room temperature.
Limit foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee,
some sodas, and chocolate.
If you have a sudden, short-term attack of diarrhea, try having
nothing but clear liquids for the next 12 to 14 hours. This lets
your bowel rest and replaces the important fluids lost during the
diarrhea. Make sure your doctor or nurse knows about this
Be careful when using milk and milk products. The lactose they
contain can make diarrhea worse. Most people, though, can handle
small amounts (about 1-1/2 cups) of milk or milk products.
Special Diets for Special Needs
When you have special needs because of your cancer or
treatment, your doctor or registered dietitian may prescribe a
special diet. For example, a soft diet may be best if your mouth,
throat, esophagus, or stomach is sore. Or, if your treatment makes
it difficult for you to digest dairy products, you may need to
follow a low-lactose diet. Other special diets include a
clear-liquid diet, a full-liquid diet, and a fiber-restricted diet.
Some special diets are well balanced and can be followed for
long periods of time. Others, however, should be followed for only
a few days because they may not provide enough nutrients for the
long term. If you think you need a special diet, talk with your
doctor and a registered dietitian. Together, you can work out a
plan. You also should work with your doctor and dietitian if you
are already on a special diet for a disease such as diabetes,
kidney, or heart disease.
means that your body can't digest or
absorb the milk sugar called lactose. Milk, other milk-based dairy
products (such as cheese and ice cream), and foods to which milk
has been added (such as pudding) may contain lactose.
Lactose intolerance may occur after treatment with some
antibiotics, with radiation to the stomach or with any treatment
that affects the digestive tract. The part of your intestines that
digests lactose may not work properly during treatment. For some
people, the symptoms of lactose intolerance (gas, cramps, diarrhea)
disappear a few weeks or months after the treatments end or when
the intestine heals. For others, a permanent change in eating
habits may be needed.
If you have this problem, your doctor may advise you to follow a
diet that is low in foods that contain lactose. Talk to a
registered dietitian to get advice and specific tips about how to
follow a low-lactose diet. Your supermarket should carry milk and
other products that have been modified to reduce or eliminate the
lactose. You can also make your own low-lactose or lactose free
foods. Here's a simple recipe for a lactose-free pudding:
Lactose-Free Double Chocolate Pudding
Some anticancer drugs and other drugs, such as pain medications,
may cause constipation. This problem also can occur if your diet
lacks enough fluid or fiber, or if you've been in bed for a long
time. Here are some suggestions for preventing and treating
Drink plenty of liquids - at least eight 8-ounce glasses every
day. This will help to keep your stools soft. Another way to think
about fluids is to try to drink at least 1/2 oz. per pound of your
Have a hot drink about one-half hour before your usual time for
a bowel movement.
Check with your doctor to see if you can increase the fiber in
your diet (there are certain types of cancer for which a high-fiber
diet is not recommended). If you can, try foods such as whole-grain
breads and cereals, dried fruits, wheat bran, wheat germ; fresh
fruits and vegetables; dried beans and peas. Eat the skin on
potatoes. Make sure you also drink plenty of fluids to help the
fiber work. Here's is an easy recipe that might help relieve
Get some exercise every day. Talk to your doctors or a physical
therapist about the amount and type of exercise that's right for
If these suggestions don't work, ask your doctor about medicine
to ease constipation. Be sure to check with your doctor before
taking any laxatives or stool softeners.
Fatigue and Depression
All the methods of treating cancer treatment are powerful.
Treatment may go on for weeks or months. It may even cause more
illness or discomfort than the initial disease. Many patients say
they feel exhausted and depressed, and unable to concentrate.
Fatigue during cancer treatment can be related to a number of
causes: not eating, inactivity, low blood counts, depression, poor
sleep, and side effects of medicine. It is important for you to
raise the issue with your health care team if you are having
fatigue. Together, you can decide what is causing the problem,
since many of the causes can be treated.
Fatigue and depression aren't eating problems in and of
themselves, but they can affect your interest in food and your
ability to shop and prepare healthy meals. Here are some
suggestions that may help:
Talk about your feelings and your fears. Being open about your
emotions can make them seem more manageable. Consider talking with
your nurse or social worker, who can help you find ways to lessen
your worries and fears.
Become familiar with your treatment, possible side effects, and
ways of coping. Being knowledgeable and acting on that knowledge
will help you feel more in control. Don't be afraid to talk with
your doctor and ask questions.
Make sure you get enough rest:
take several naps or rest breaks during the day, rather than
one long rest
plan your day to include rest breaks
make rest time special with a good book in a comfortable chair
or a favorite video with a friend
try easier or shorter versions of your usual activities; don't
push yourself to do more than you can manage.
Save your favorite foods for times that aren't associated with
treatment sessions. That way, they won't be linked to an
uncomfortable or distressing event.
Take short walks or get regular exercise, if possible. Some
people find this helps to lessen their fatigue and raise their
Preventing Food-Borne Illness
Cancer patients undergoing treatment can develop a weakened
immune system because most anticancer drugs decrease the body's
ability to make white blood cells, the cells that fight infection.
That's why cancer patients should be especially careful to avoid
infections and food-borne illnesses. Here are some tips to help you
prevent food-borne illness:
Wash all raw fruits and vegetables well. If it can't be well
washed (as with raspberries), avoid it. Scrub rough surfaces, like
the skin of melons, prior to cutting.
Carefully wash your hands and food preparation surfaces
(knives, cutting boards) before and after preparing food,
especially after handling raw meat.
Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.
Be sure to cook meat and eggs thoroughly.
Avoid raw shellfish and use only pasteurized or processed
ciders and juices and pasteurized milk and cheese.
The Food and Drug Administration has published a booklet that
includes these and other tips for preventing food-borne illness.
See the RESOURCES section for ordering information.
Extra Vitamins and Minerals—Will They Help?
Many cancer patients want to know whether vitamins, minerals, or
other dietary supplements (such as
) will help
"build them up" or help fight their cancer. We know that patients
who eat well during cancer treatment are better able to cope with
their disease and any side effects of treatment. However, there is
no scientific evidence that dietary supplements or herbal remedies
can cure cancer or stop it from coming back.
The NCI strongly urges you to depend on traditional, healthy
foods for vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Talk to your
doctor, nurse, registered dietitian, or a pharmacist before taking
any vitamin or mineral supplements. Too much of some vitamins or
minerals can be just as dangerous as too little. Large doses of
some vitamins may even stop your cancer treatment from working the
way it should. To avoid problems, don't take these products on your
own. Follow your doctor's guidance.
What About Alternative Therapies?
You may hear or read about many different kinds of treatments
people have tried to cure their disease. A therapy is called
complementary when it is used in addition to conventional
treatments; it is often called alternative when it is used instead
of conventional treatment. A number of medical centers are
evaluating the scientific aspects of complementary and alternative
therapies and developing studies to test them. Many of these
treatments have not been thoroughly studied, and we have no proof
that they work or that they are safe. Other treatments have been
studied, and we know they don't help or are harmful. It is
important to talk with your doctor or nurse if you are considering
trying any of these treatments, because some therapies may
interfere with your standard treatment or may be harmful when used
with conventional treatment. He or she can talk to you about any
research that has been done and whether or not the treatment is
safe or would interfere with your treatment. NCI strongly urges you
to follow a treatment program prescribed by a doctor who uses
accepted and proven methods or treatments. People who depend upon
unconventional treatments alone may lose valuable treatment time
and reduce their chances of controlling their cancer and getting
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a