Nutrition Important for Cancer Patients

Proper eating aids treatments, preserves strength

Patients undergoing treatment for cancer may not be prepared for the way chemotherapy or radiation affects proper eating. Many treatments cause nausea, constipation or diarrhea, and some alter the sense of taste so that once-loved treats become noxious. Certain cancers also lead to wasting, which can further weaken the body.

Cancer physicians usually don't spend much time discussing nutrition with patients. However, oncology centers often have dieticians or a separate nutrition department that can help patients eat healthfully during and after treatment. The choice of foods can either assist treatment or work against it. For example, vitamins C and E should not be taken through the period that a patient receives chemotherapy because their antioxidant properties may make some treatments less effective.

The University of Alabama in Birmingham provides an example of nutrition advice available at many cancer centers. The Birmingham News reviews general guidelines for proper eating for cancer patients and recommends several books on nutrition and other resources. The writer also provides a personal account describing how healthful nutrition aided her own treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The American Cancer Society provides a detailed discussion of nutrition for cancer patients. From the main page, use the drop-down menu to read additional pages on the benefits of good nutrition, how cancer treatment affects the ability to eat properly, managing side effects, the role of supplements and herbal remedies, plus other topics.

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