Cancer Care Diet and Nutrition

The benefits of maintaining good nutritional balance is, of course, an important aspect of staying healthy. If you are fighting cancer, good nutrition is imperative because both the illness and its treatments can change the way you eat, the way your body tolerates certain foods, and the way it utilizes nutrients from the food.

While the nutrient requirements of patients with cancer vary from person to person, the staff at Portneuf Cancer Center team can help you identify your personal nutrition goals and integrate them with your treatment. There are, however, some general guidelines to follow and understand which can improve your strength and immunity while coping with cancer treatments and the recovery process.


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 and are not in the process of losing weight.


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 experienced throughout your treatment regime. If you experience any of these (or other side-effects), let your physician know immediately. Our dietitians are an important part of Portneuf Cancer Center’s integrated approach. They have specific handouts with nutrition suggestions and tips to help you manage these side effects and successfully prepare your body for treatment and recovery.


All body cells need water to function. If you don’t take in enough fluids or if you lose fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, you can become dehydrated. If this happens, the fluids and minerals that help keep your body working can become dangerously out of balance. You get water from the foods you eat, but a person should also drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of liquid each day to be sure that all the body cells get the fluid they need. You may need extra fluids if you’re vomiting, have diarrhea, or even if you’re just not eating much. Keep in mind that all liquids (soups, milk, even ice cream and gelatin) count toward your fluid goals.


A person who eats a balanced diet with enough calories and protein usually gets plenty of vitamins and minerals. But it can be hard to eat a balanced diet when you’re being treated for cancer, especially if you have treatment side effects that last for a long time. In this case, your doctor or dietitian may suggest a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. If your food intake has been limited for several weeks or months because of the effects of treatment, be sure to tell your doctor immediately.

If you’re thinking of taking a vitamin or supplement, be sure to discuss this with your doctor first. Some people with cancer take large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements to try to boost their immune system or even destroy cancer cells. But some of these substances can be harmful, especially when taken in large doses. In fact, large doses of some vitamins and minerals may make chemotherapy and radiation therapy less effective.


Dietary requirements and nutritional fluctuations can be difficult to manage during cancer treatments. Physical side-effects can be exacerbated by the mental stresses endured during the process, and can be overwhelming to try to maintain on your own. That’s why Portneuf Cancer Center incorporates dietitians as a part of our Integral Patient Care system, relieving some of the stress involved with planning and following a healthy diet during treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about nutritional intake during oncological treatments, please contact them at 208-239-1750.