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General Guidelines

General Guidelines – Cancer related weight loss and loss of appetite.

Cancer weakens one’s immune system. Proper and adequate nourishment will help the body be strong so that it can cope with the side effects, which may occur as the treatment progresses. Persons with decreased immune function due to chemotherapy or radiation, or persons receiving therapy which affects the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, colon or rectum are at increased risk of developing a food-related infection.

The purpose of Nutritional care is:

  • To ensure, conserve or restore nutritional status.
  • To minimize food related discomfort associated with cancer and or its treatment.
  • To improve strength, well-being and quality of life of the patient.

Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger. A healthy diet includes eating and drinking enough of the foods and liquids that have the important nutrients (vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and water) the body needs.

When the body does not get or cannot absorb the nutrients needed for health, it causes a condition called malnutrition or malnourishment.

Anorexia (the loss of appetite or desire to eat) is a common symptom in people with cancer. Anorexia may occur early in the disease or later, if the cancer grows or spreads. Some patients already have anorexia when they are diagnosed with cancer. Almost all patients who have advanced cancer will have anorexia. Anorexia is the most common cause of malnutrition in cancer patients.

Cachexia is a condition marked by a loss of appetite, weight loss, muscle loss, and general weakness. It is common in patients with tumors of the lung, pancreas, and upper gastrointestinal tract. It is important to watch for and treat cachexia early in cancer treatment because it is hard to correct.

Cancer patients may have anorexia and cachexia at the same time. Weight loss can be caused by eating fewer calories, using more calories, or both.

People with cancer often need to follow diets that are different from what they think of as healthy. For most people, a healthy diet includes:

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals
  • Modest amounts of meat and milk products
  • Small amounts of fat, sugar, alcohol, and salt

When you have cancer, though, you need to eat to keep up your strength to deal with the side effects of treatment. When you are healthy, eating enough food is often not a problem. But when you are dealing with cancer and treatment, this can be a real challenge.

When you have cancer, you may need extra protein and calories. At times, your diet may need to include extra milk, cheese, and eggs. If you have trouble chewing and swallowing, you may need to add sauces and gravies. Sometimes, you may need to eat low-fiber foods instead of those with high fiber. Your dietitian can help you with any diet changes you may need to make.

Cancer treatments – especially chemotherapy – can take a toll on your body, draining your strength and appetite. To help build back your immune system incorporate delicious whole foods, which are easy to digest, with their rainbow of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Eat foods that are rich in their cancer-fighting antioxidant values. Start by eating lots of protein. You can get it in a variety of tasty foods. Also include foods rich in vitamin C, D, E, carotenoids, selenium, soy isoflavones, amino acids, folic acid, l-glutamine, flavanoids, calcium, and other nutrients. It’s also important to make sure you drink lots of water and get enough calories in your diet. Your nutritional needs may change during treatment. After surgery, or radiation to the abdomen, head or neck, you may need to adapt to a liquid diet and work your way towards a soft food diet before getting back to your regular foods diet. You may also need to adapt to a lactose-free diet, and/or high protein diet during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.


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