Your body needs good nutrition for health and tissue replacement. So eating healthy foods before, during and after your cancer diagnosis is very important. Good nutrition helps you feel better and build strength when you need it most. This good nutrition includes eating well and drinking enough liquids to supply your body with what it needs. Without enough nutrients, you can suffer malnutrition during cancer treatment.
Surprisingly, good nutrition for cancer patients is different than the healthy eating of a person without cancer. You have to maintain your body weight and strength during treatment, keeping your body tissues in good health and fighting infections. Healthy eating also helps you deal with your cancer’s effects on your life. Being well nourished even helps your cancer treatments work better. Your quality of life and chance for recovery improves when your body has the right nutrients.
Some cancer tumors change how your body uses nutrients. These tumors, particularly those of the stomach or intestines, produce chemicals affecting how your body uses protein, fat and carbohydrates. The biggest issue is nutrient absorption loss, even though you seem to be eating well.
Eating well is harder with cancer or after treatments have begun. Some of the cancer treatments altering your ability to eat right and absorb nutrients include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplant. Good nutrition is hardest for cancers of the head, neck stomach, intestines or esophagus.
Cancer and cancer treatment side effects make eating difficult. Some of these conditions include:
Cancer treatment and even your cancer itself affect your senses of smell and taste. This in turn affects your desire for food, since the experience of eating is not as rich as before. It also affects your appetite and ability to consume enough food to benefit from nutrients. These problems can lead to malnutrition, as well as that condition’s side effects of weakness, exhaustion and inability to fight infections. If your cancer grows or metastasizes, these problems can become worse.
The problem with low nutrition during cancer is that poor nourishment affects your ability to get through your cancer treatments. Without enough protein and calories, your body cannot heal itself, fight infection or build enough strength and energy to keep you moving. Many cancer patients suffer lost appetite.
Two conditions affecting many people with cancer are anorexia and cachexia. Anorexia is the loss of desire to eat. Cachexia appetite loss causes weight loss, muscle loss and overall weakness. Anorexia can happen at any time in your disease, such as at diagnosis or as the cancer spreads. By the time some people gain a diagnosis of cancer, they already have developed anorexia. Almost everyone late in their cancer’s progression suffers anorexia and its resulting malnutrition.
Cachexia is most common in people with lung, pancreas or upper G.I. tumors. Sadly, once cachexia begins, it is hard to reverse. This is why it is so important to pay attention to nutrition from the very earliest point in your cancer as possible. Many people suffer both anorexia and cachexia.
It is critical that cancer and cancer treatment-related weight loss gain early attention and treatment. The same is true for side effects affecting your eating or weight. Nutrition therapy and medicines provide the help you need for better nutrition and eating. Available medicines help you increase your appetite and digest food. Medicines are also available to help prevent or treat nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, mouth problems and pain related to eating.
Arizona Center for Cancer Care provides more than 35 offices and 55 physicians across Maricopa County for your cancer treatment. Whether you live in the Northeast Valley, Southeast Valley or West Valley, you benefit from the best physicians, leading treatment technologies and most up-to-date research in the country, right near your home. Your cancer treatment professionals help you understand your nutritional needs after your cancer diagnosis and during treatment.