Supportive Care Clinic
Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer
What are some of the benefits of good nutrition during cancer treatment?
- The right nutrition during cancer treatment can help patients cope better with the side effects of treatment. The side effects of treatment can be less severe in patients who can stay well nourished. Patients with good nutrition during treatment may be able to tolerate higher doses of certain treatments.
- Good nutrition during cancer treatment can help patients keep up their strength and can help rebuild and repair body tissues that are broken down as a result of treatment.
- Good nutrition during cancer treatment can help keep the immune system functioning at its best, which is important in fighting cancer and preventing infections. Persons with cancer are at a higher risk for infections.
Patients who are as well nourished as they can be have a better quality of life during and after cancer treatment.
Why is good nutritional support so important during cancer treatment?
- There are many reasons why diet and nutrition become important for persons with cancer. First of all, having a tumor or cancer cells in the body causes changes in the way the body processes the protein, carbohydrates and fats eaten in the diet and also the protein, carbohydrates and fats stored in the body tissues. Having cancer also causes changes in water, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals in the body. Having cancer may cause a need for more calories and protein each day.
- A second reason that diet and nutrition are so important in cancer is related to cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are treatments designed to kill or stop cancer cells. These treatments also cause changes in the way the body processes nutrients from foods that are eaten, Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery all cause a need for more calories and protein each day.
- And finally, the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and sometimes surgery, can make it very difficult to take in enough calories and protein each day.
Some of the nutrition problems people with cancer experience are:
- Loss of appetite
- Severely painful mouth or throat sores called “mucositis”
- Changes in the way foods taste
- Problems with food odors and/or temperatures
- Lack of ability to taste and/or smell food
- Trouble chewing and/or swallowing
- Dry mouth and lack of saliva
- Tiredness and fatigue