After a cancer diagnosis, most patients aren’t likely thinking about what they’re going to have for dinner — but research suggests that it should be a priority, as proper nutrition can provide a wealth of assistance for cancer patients.
Why is Nutrition Important?
Cancer patients face many challenges in properly nourishing their bodies.
Treatments like chemo or radiation may leave them feeling too sick to eat, the disease can wage war on a patient’s energy that can steal their appetite and they may even grapple with side effects like mouth sores that make eating difficult. According to the National Cancer Institute, many cancer patients face anorexia and cachexia, or wasting, after a diagnosis.
Despite all those obstacles, good nutrition is vital to recovery. Many patients suffer from a lack of calories and proteins, both of which are important to building up the immune system and fighting off disease. NCI also cautions that some cancer treatments are more effective when the patient is well-nourished, and good nutrition has been shown to prolong patients’ lives.
Resources for Nutrition
Finding out what to eat, how much of it to eat and even when to eat it is no easy task, especially when dealing with health challenges. Luckily, there are a number of online resources that offer assistance for cancer patients looking to get their nutrition on track.
The NCI has a helpful guide, Nutrition in Cancer Care, that offers comprehensive information about nutrition. Here, patients can find tips on which cancer drugs interact with which foods, how certain treatments may impact nutrition and which foods are best to combat certain symptoms. It also delves into post-cancer nutrition to help survivors maintain a healthy diet.
The American Institute of Cancer Research has also published its own nutritional guide. Patients can evaluate their current diet with a health quiz, learn about foods that fight cancer and check out a recipe section for suggestions on health-boosting dishes. AICR also operates a nutrition hotline staffed by registered dietitians.
MD Anderson Cancer Center’s nutrition page groups food suggestions according to symptoms; for instance, if a patient is experiencing a change in taste or smell, it recommends eating foods that are cold or lukewarm, and advises pureeing foods when dealing with a sore mouth or throat.
Every person fighting cancer develops a unique treatment plan, and nutrition is no different; a healthy diet means something different to each cancer patient, depending on his or her prognosis, appetite and even tastes. No matter the diet, incorporating proper nutrition into a post-diagnosis plan can put patients one step closer to beating the disease and staying healthy in their post-cancer journey.