How Can Cancer Treatment Affect My Nutrition?

If you are undergoing cancer treatment, you already know how important it is to keep your body strong by maintaining a healthy diet. You probably also know, however, that eating while in treatment for cancer is often difficult. Here is a basic run-down of the eating issues caused by the most common forms of cancer treatment.

Cancer Surgery and Eating

To properly recover from surgery, patients have an increased need for nutrients and energy to help fight infections and heal tissues. In some cases, patients need to prepare for surgery by gaining some weight and are encouraged to adhere to a high-protein and high-calorie diet. Post-surgery, patients may be placed on a liquid diet or may get their nutrients through intravenous feeding.

Chemotherapy and Eating

Chemotherapy is designed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, but it also affects the growth of healthy cells, including the cells in the mouth and in the digestive system. Chemotherapy side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, sore mouth or throat, constipation, changes in the sense of smell or taste, and general fatigue can make healthy eating a challenge. In order to regain healthy blood counts between chemotherapy sessions, patients need to find a way to get ample nourishment.

Radiation and Eating

While radiation therapy kills cancer cells, it can also damage nearby healthy cells. Radiation side effects differ according to the area of the body treated, but common radiation side effects that affect nutrition include esophageal infection or reflux, nausea, difficulty swallowing, diarrhea, intestinal blockage, fatigue, and decreased appetite.

If you’re being treated for cancer, it’s important that you take the time to study the possible side effects of your treatment and how they may affect your appetite and ability to eat. By knowing what you may be up against, you can take the proper steps to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to keep fighting.