When your cancer was first diagnosed, your doctor talked to you
about a treatment plan. This may have involved surgery, radiation
therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biologic
(immunotherapy), or some combination of those treatments.
All of these methods of treating cancer kill cells. In the
process of killing the cancer cells, some healthy cells are also
damaged. That is what causes the side effects of cancer treatment.
Side effects that can affect your ability to eat include:
loss of appetite
changes in weight (either losing or gaining weight)
sore mouth or throat
dental and gum problems
changes in sense of taste or smell
fatigue and/or depression
You may or may not have any of these side effects. Many factors
determine whether you will have any and how severe they will be.
These factors include the type of cancer you have, the part of your
body being treated, the type and length of treatment, and the dose
of treatment. The good news is that if you do have side effects
they can often be well-controlled. Most side effects also go away
after treatment ends. Your doctor or nurse can tell you more about
your chances of having side effects and what they might be
Nutrition Recommendations Can Be Different for Cancer
Recommendations about food and eating for cancer patients can
be very different from the usual suggestions for healthful eating.
This can be confusing for many patients because these new
suggestions may seem to be the opposite of what they've always
recommendations usually stress eating lots
of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals;
including a moderate amount of meat and dairy products; and cutting
back on fat, sugar, alcohol, and salt. More information and tips on
these recommendations are covered in the section
After Treatment Ends
Nutrition recommendations for cancer patients may focus on
helping you eat more higher
foods that emphasize
. Recommendations might include eating or drinking
more milk, cream, cheese, and cooked eggs. Other suggestions might
include increasing your use of sauces and gravies, or changing your
cooking methods to include more butter, margarine, or oil.
Sometimes, nutrition recommendations for cancer patients suggest
that you eat less of certain
foods because these
foods can aggravate problems such as diarrhea or a sore mouth.
Nutrition recommendations for cancer patients are different
because they are designed to help build up your strength and help
you withstand the effects of your cancer and its treatment. When
you are healthy, eating enough food to get the
need is usually not a problem. During cancer treatment, however,
this can become a challenge, especially if you have side effects or
simply don't feel well.
Preparing Yourself for Cancer Treatment
Until your treatment actually starts, you won't know exactly what,
if any, side effects you may have or how you'll feel. One way to
prepare is to think of your treatment as a time for you to
concentrate on yourself and on getting well. Here are some other
ways to get ready:
Many people have few or no eating-related side effects. Even if
you do, they may be mild, and most go away after cancer treatment
ends. Also, there are new drugs now that can work well to control
Having a positive attitude, talking out your feelings, becoming
well-informed about your cancer and treatment, and planning ways to
cope can all help reduce worry and anxiety, make you feel more in
control, and help you keep your appetite.
Give food a chance. Even if you do have eating problems, you'll
have days when eating is a pleasure.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is vital for a person's body to work its best.
This is even more important for cancer patients.
If you've been eating a healthy diet, you'll go into treatment
with reserves to help keep up your strength, prevent body
from breaking down, rebuild tissue, and maintain your
People who eat well are better able to cope with side effects.
You may even be able to handle higher doses of certain treatments.
For example, we know that some cancer treatments are actually much
more effective if the patient is well-nourished and getting enough
calories and protein in his or her diet.
Don't be afraid to try new foods. Some things you may never
have liked before may taste good to you during treatment.
Stock the pantry and freezer with favorite foods so that you
won't need to shop as often. Include foods you know you can eat
even when you are sick.
Keep foods handy that need little or no preparation, for
example, pudding, peanut butter, tuna fish, cheese, and eggs.
Do some cooking in advance and freeze in meal-sized
Talk to friends or family members about helping with shopping
and cooking. Or, ask a friend or family member to manage that job
Talk to a registered dietitian about your concerns and what you
might expect. She or he can give you ideas and help you plan meals.
Ask for help in developing a grocery list with foods that might
help with potential side effects, such as constipation or nausea.
Ask about what has worked for other patients.
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