Mar 29, 2019 by AdminNJCC

Good nutrition is especially important for cancer patients because both the illness and its treatments can cause you to alter both your diet and the way you eat. It can also affect the way your body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients.

The nutritional needs of people with cancer vary from person to person. Your cancer care team can help you identify your specific nutrition goals and customize a plan to help you meet those goals.

Step one is to have a conversation with your doctor, nurse, or dietitian

These medical professionals can help choose the various foods and beverages that are best for you both during and after your particular treatment. There are also many helpful medications that can be prescribed to help manage eating problems. You should prepare a list of questions for your meeting. You may want to ask about your favorite foods or recipes and if you can eat them during cancer treatment. If you are already on a special diet for diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, or if you suffer from any other health problems, it is even more important to speak with your medical professional.

Remember that everyone is unique and responds to disease and treatment differently, so there is no way to know if you will have eating problems, or if so, how severe they might be. You may have few or no problems at all depending on the type of cancer you have, where in your body it is, and a whole host of other factors.

Getting ready for cancer treatment

The nutritional needs of people with cancer vary from person to person. Your cancer care team can help you identify your specific nutrition goals and customize a plan to help you meet those goals.

Until treatment actually starts, you will not know what side
effects you may have. If you do encounter some, they may be mild. Oftentimes
side effects can be controlled and many simply go away once cancer treatment
ends.

Before treatment begins, make it a point to eat a healthy
diet and maintain your normal weight. Doing this heading into treatment helps
you stay strong, will lower your risk for infection, and help you better cope
with any side effects.  

Your physician will help give you guidance in terms of a
preparatory diet, but here are some general guidelines to help you get the most
out of the foods and drinks you consume.

During treatment, you may have both good days and bad days
when it comes to food. So try and eat when you have the biggest appetite. Many people
experience hunger in the morning and you might want to eat a bigger meal early,
and then drink liquid meal replacements as the day progresses and your hunger
diminishes.

Try to eat plenty of protein and calories when you can. This
helps you keep up your strength and helps rebuild tissues harmed by certain
cancer treatments.

You may feel like you can’t eat a lot of different foods,
and that’s okay. Eat the foods that sound good until you are able to eat more.
As mentioned above, liquid meal replacements are also available for extra
nutrition. Don’t worry if you feel that you cannot eat at all some days. Try to
find other things to make you feel better and resume eating when you feel you
are able. It is important to tell your doctor if you cannot eat for more than 2
days. Try and drink plenty of liquids. This is even more important on days when
you cannot eat. You should try to drink 8 to 12 cups of liquid per day.

Vitamins and minerals

A person who eats a balanced diet usually gets plenty of
vitamins and minerals. But it can be hard to eat a balanced diet when you’re
being treated for cancer. If you find that your food intake has been limited
for several weeks, or even months, because of treatment, be sure to tell your
doctor. You might need to be checked for vitamin or mineral deficiencies and a
daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may be recommended.

However, you should not do this without discussing it with
your doctor first. Some people with cancer decide on their own to take large
amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements to try to boost
their immune system. But some of these substances can be harmful, especially
when taken in large doses. In addition, large doses of some vitamins and
minerals may even make chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other treatments
less effective.

Things to avoid

Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger. But there are also things you should stay away from. When fighting cancer, both the disease and the treatment take a toll on the body. Some cancer treatments can make you prone to infections. So while a healthy person with a strong immune system might not think twice about it, a person with cancer should always avoid eating raw fish or shellfish, such as sushi and uncooked clams and oysters. Also stay away from raw nuts and foods from bulk bins. Never use foods, drinks, or condiments that are past their posted freshness date. Eating at buffets, salad bars, or self-service restaurants should be avoided. Don’t consume foods that show signs of mold including aged cheeses such as bleu cheese and Roquefort. Do not eat leftovers that have been in the refrigerator longer than 3 days. Do not leave meat, poultry, or fish sitting out to thaw.

Other common sense tips

Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger. But there are also things you should stay away from. When fighting cancer, both the disease and the treatment take a toll on the body. Some cancer treatments can make you prone to infections. So while a healthy person with a strong immune system might not think twice about it, a person with cancer should always avoid eating raw fish or shellfish, such as sushi and uncooked clams and oysters. Also stay away from raw nuts and foods from bulk bins. Never use foods, drinks, or condiments that are past their posted freshness date. Eating at buffets, salad bars, or self-service restaurants should be avoided. Don’t consume foods that show signs of mold including aged cheeses such as bleu cheese and Roquefort. Do not eat leftovers that have been in the refrigerator longer than 3 days. Do not leave meat, poultry, or fish sitting out to thaw.

• Keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold, and place leftovers
in the refrigerator right away

• Wash all raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before you
eat them

• Be sure to wash hands, cutting utensils, and counter tops
before and after you prepare food. This is particularly important when
preparing raw meat, poultry, and fish. Use one cutting board for meat and
another one for fruits and vegetables

• Thaw meat, poultry and fish in the refrigerator or defrost
in microwave

• Cook foods thoroughly; eggs should be hard, not runny; meats
should not have any pink inside; use a meat thermometer and cook to the safe
temperature

• Make sure your juices and milk products are pasteurized

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