Guest Blog: The Effects of Cancer and Its Treatment on Nutrition and Health

April 3, 2013 BY: LISA

This Post is written by David Haas:

For healthy men and women, getting enough nutrition is not a problem. Nutrition guidelines stress fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are high in fiber and nutrients. They also stress we decrease red meat, processed foods, fat, sugar, salt and alcohol.

For cancer patients, these guidelines can be hard to follow. Cancer symptoms cause weakness and illness, while cancer treatments cause severe side effects. Eating anything is hard when the appetite is gone, and weight loss is a constant struggle.

Good cancer nutrition may not match the picture of healthy eating that most people have in mind. Cancer patients have different nutrition needs, and their cancer treatment affects those needs. They may need to change their diets to build strength, boost energy and withstand the effects of treatment.

The Typical Cancer Diet

The typical cancer diet consists of foods that are high in proteins, fats and calories. These nutrients are essential for weight maintenance, since treatment makes it hard to eat food or keep it down. Cold foods and liquid shakes may be the only thing patients can tolerate with mouth sores and swallowing problems. Mesothelioma patients and people with other advanced cancers may eat comfort foods as palliative care. Mesothelioma patients may also find this site helpful.

After cancer diagnosis, patients normally talk to their doctors about treatment plans. Most cancers are treated with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or immunotherapy. Some patients receive a combination of treatments.

These methods of cancer management are effective for fighting cancer, but they also injure healthy cells and cause often-debilitating side effects. Good nutrition can combat some of the adverse effects and prepare patients to fight their disease with a stronger, healthier body.

How Cancer Alters Nutrition

Cancer alters the way the body absorbs and uses nutrients, and cancer treatment upsets the appetite and digestive system. Some of the things that cause eating problems for cancer patients are anorexia, dry mouth, sore throat, gum problems, taste changes, smell aversions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue and depression.

According to MD Anderson Cancer Center, some patients experience more serious side effects. Among them are diabetes, endocrine changes, thyroid problems, incontinence, lymph node damage, nerve damage, osteoporosis, reproductive problems and sexual dysfunction. Before nutrition needs can be met, doctors must treat the underlying medical conditions.

Cancer patients do not normally experience all of these symptoms. However, even a few of these side effects can affect nutrition if they are not controlled. Cancer diets take into account several factors including cancer type, treatment method, medication dosage and the part of the body affected by cancer.

Nutrition plans must be closely monitored for nutrition risks and side effects. If diet alone does not meet a patient’s nutrition goals, doctors can prescribe medications, nutritional supplements or nutritional therapy.

Joining the MCA(Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance) in 2011, David Haas is the Director of Awareness Programs. In addition to researching much of the information available to our site’s visitors, David often blogs about programs available and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. David is a fitness enthusiast who frequently runs, climbs, and bikes for enjoyment. He is also very involved in outreach associated with awareness about the dangers of asbestos for many different organizations and groups of people.

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