Nutrition During Treatments
At the Portneuf Cancer Center, we encourage you to take full advantage of the trained professionals that we have gathered to support you in your cancer care. If at any time you have questions about your disease, your treatment, or any other aspect of your care, please ask anyone for assistance and they will help to direct you to the appropriate personnel. If you have any questions or concerns about nutritional during treatment, please contact us at 208-239-1720.
General Nutrition During Chemotherapy and Radiation Treatments
As a patient of the Portneuf Cancer Center, you have a variety of supportive care options available to you. One of the most important and easy to access is the supportive care of our specially trained dietitians who are available to answer your questions and to provide you with some of the tools you will need to successfully combat cancer.
Importance of Eating Well and Maintaining Weight
A lot of patients hear that cancer treatment can lead to weight loss and say “Great, I could stand to lose a few pounds,” however, weight loss during your treatment can have significant consequences. Maintaining a healthy weight is a wonderful life goal, but getting to your healthy weight should be postponed until your treatment is finished. Eating well and maintaining your weight are the two biggest nutritional goals during your treatment because research shows that patients are better able to tolerate the side effects of treatment when they eat well. Eating well means trying to eat a variety of foods including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals to promote weight maintenance and good health during treatment. Sometimes it is difficult to eat well during your treatment and your diet may need to be customized by the dietitian for the duration. You will be weighed regularly throughout your treatments, but please feel free to discuss any nutrition concerns you may have at any time during your treatment.
Nutrition Suggestions for Managing Side Effects
Many times, the oncology health care team doesn’t find out that a patient is having a difficult time managing the side effects of treatment until after the patient has suffered silently. Side effects like loss of appetite, weight loss/gain, sore mouth or throat, dry mouth, changes to smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and fatigue can all be relieved or eliminated. The dietitian has specific handouts with nutrition suggestions and tips to help you manage these side effects and successfully prepare your body for treatment and recovery.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could easily apply to some of the missteps that can be made by patients with what and how much they eat. You may need to follow a special diet during your treatment to help minimize potential side effects some foods may cause. For example, a soft diet may be recommended if you have a sore throat, mouth, or esophagus to eliminate the discomfort of chewing and to minimize the abrasion to your mouth and throat. Other special diets include fiber restricted, high calorie/protein, clear liquid, and full liquid. The dietitian will provide the diet instruction if a special diet is recommended. Also, please let the dietitian know if you follow a special diet at home (i.e., diabetic, cardiac). Your diet may need to be liberalized during your treatment.
If you are eating everything you can and following the advice of the health care team and are still losing weight, the dietitian will assist you by providing education and samples of nutritional supplements. These supplements will provide the calories and protein that your body needs but is unable to get from you current diet and nutritional limitations. A wide variety of commercial nutrition supplements are available at your local supermarket or pharmacy. Examples include Carnation Instant Breakfast®, Ensure®, and Boost®. Nutrition supplements are helpful when you experience a loss of appetite, weight loss, or just can’t eat enough at one time. You can mix a commercially available supplement, make your own high calorie and high protein recipe at home, and/or the dietitian can assist you with other lists of recipes and helpful advice.
Vitamins and Minerals
There is no scientific research that shows that vitamins/minerals prevent or stop cancer from reoccurring. In fact, during your treatment, large doses of antioxidants are usually not recommended because they may limit the effectiveness of your treatment by protecting cancer cells as well as healthy cells. Examples of antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and selenium. Please discuss any vitamins or herbal supplements with your health care team.