Cancer (Nutrition for Patients During Treatment)

Learn the answers to some of the more commonly asked questions about food for cancer patients during their treatment.

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Nutrition During Cancer Therapy

When undergoing treatment for cancer, you may have concerns regarding your diet, and have questions like: am I eating enough to meet my nutritional needs? Should I be eating special foods? 

Some people may also try to convince you that cancer can be cured by eating, or not eating, particular foods. This may make you more unsure about what to eat. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions on the diet for cancer patients.

What Difference Does Nutrition Make to My Treatment?

Nutrition is an important part of your cancer treatment plan. Eating well during treatment can help you to:
Prevent or reverse weight loss
Fight infections more easily
Tolerate any side effects of your treatment more readily
Recover as quickly as possible from your treatment
Feel stronger and more energetic

What Should I Eat to Ensure Good Nutrition?

The key to ensuring good nutrition is having a balanced diet. Rice and alternatives should be eaten in the largest amount, followed by fruits and vegetables, then meat and alternatives. High-energy foods like cake and kueh can be eaten as dessert or as snacks between meals to boost energy intake.

In general, a healthy balanced diet should be sufficient for you to maintain good nutritional status. However, you may need to modify it when you encounter nutrition-related problems during your treatment. Examples of side effects that can be helped through dietary changes include:
Nausea and vomiting
Diarrhoea
Bloating and wind
Taste changes
Mouth and throat problems
Loss of appetite
Weight loss

What about Nutritional Drinks for Cancer?

If you are suffering from a loss of appetite or if you are unable to eat solid foods, for example, because of a sore mouth, nausea and vomiting, you may find nutritional supplements a useful and convenient form of nutrients. These can be taken instead of meals, or between meals to boost energy intake. Commonly available nutritional supplements include Enercal Plus, Ensure Life, Resource and Isocal. They can be drunk on their own, or used like milk in jellies, Milo, coffee or tea.

Do I Need to Eat Special Foods or Avoid Eating Certain Foods?

Currently, there is no evidence to support claims that certain foods can cure cancer, or that particular foods will make your condition worse. So, there is no need to eat, or avoid eating, any particular foods.

Be careful about special diets that claim to cure cancer — especially those that restrict your intake of many foods. They can lead to an imbalance of nutrients, causing other health problems.

Is There a Place for Traditional Foods in a Cancer Patient’s Diet?

Traditional foods, such as bird's nest, red dates and ginseng will not do you any harm when taken in moderation with a balanced diet. However, check with your doctor before taking medicinal herbs or traditional medicines as these may interfere with your treatment.

Your dietitian can help you to:
Modify your usual diet to suit your current needs
Choose appropriate nutritional supplements as needed
Evaluate special diets and food products
Stay within recommended safe limits if you are taking vitamin and mineral supplements

Remember, you can actively participate in your own treatment through good nutrition. Make food your ally to enhance your health and body resistance, as well as to help you cope better with any side effects of treatment.

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Cancer (Nutrition for Patients During Treatment)

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