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Nutrition for People with Cancer in NJ, CT, MD, & Washington, D.C., Area

Whether a person is undergoing cancer treatment or is in remission, a healthy diet is critical. The body needs nutrients to fight disease. Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) is dedicated to helping patients and caregivers learn more about maintaining a healthy diet during – and following — treatment. Serving people in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area, RCCA is a leading provider of innovative cancer therapies. Learn more about nutrition for patients with cancer.

How Cancer Treatment Affects the Body

Cancer damages the body, but cancer treatment can take a physical toll, as well. The body needs nutrients to restore tissue damage caused by cancer and cancer therapies, as well as to maintain the immune system. However, certain treatments such as chemotherapy can lead to nausea and loss of appetite, making healthy eating challenging.

Side effects of cancer treatment can include:

Nausea

Feeling nauseous is a normal side effect of chemotherapy and, sometimes, other treatments, such as radiation therapy. If a patient is experiencing nausea, it may help to eat slowly and have frequent, small portions instead of three big meals each day. Avoiding spicy or fried foods is best. If a patient has frequent and significant nausea, a doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help control it.

Constipation

Constipation is a side effect of chemotherapy and certain medications. Staying hydrated and incorporating more fiber into the diet can help reduce constipation. Try high-fiber foods such as:

  • Beans, lentils, and chickpeas
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Raspberries
  • Dried fruit
  • Oat bran or bran flakes

Patients with cancer should try to include some fiber in each meal and drink plenty of water.

Mouth Sores

Certain cancer treatments can damage the cells that line the mouth and throat. This can lead to mouth sores, which look like small ulcers or cuts on the gums and mouth. Mouth sores go away eventually, but they can make eating and swallowing painful. Eating soft, plain foods and cutting food into bite-size pieces can help with mouth soreness.

Lack of Appetite

Some patients find chemotherapy makes them lose their appetite. Foods no longer seem appealing, which makes it difficult to get enough nutrients. Eating small meals and snacks throughout the day can help, along with taking a multivitamin.

Taste and Smell Changes

A patient’s sense of taste and smell can change as a side effect of cancer treatment. Foods may begin to taste metallic or bitter. These side effects often go away after treatment ends, but in the meantime, a patient can try different sauces or flavorings to mask unpleasant tastes. Eating food cold or at room temperature can help reduce off-putting smells.

Some patients lose weight during cancer treatment, in which case they may need to eat more high-calorie and high-protein foods. It may be beneficial to work with a nutritionist or registered dietitian who can help the patient get back to a healthy weight.

Two people chopping vegetables together at the kitchen counter

Nutrition for Patients With Cancer: Tips for Staying Healthy

Getting enough nutrients is important for everyone, but it’s especially needed for individuals who have cancer or are in recovery. Nutrition recommendations include:

  • Eat a varied diet: Focus on eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid heavily processed foods and red meat.
  • Abstain from alcohol: While more research is needed on how alcohol affects cancer recurrence, moderate and heavy alcohol use is linked to a wide range of health problems. Patients in remission should ask their doctor if alcohol is safe for them.
  • Stay hydrated: Patients going through cancer treatment are sometimes at higher risk of dehydration. It’s important to drink fluids throughout the day and eat foods with high water content, such as lettuce and watermelon.
  • Practice food safety: Because cancer treatment can weaken patients’ immune systems, they should take steps to minimize their risk of foodborne illness. This includes proper hand washing, rinsing fruits and vegetables, and cooking meat to the recommended internal temperature.

In addition to eating a healthy, balanced diet, patients with cancer should avoid tobacco and get plenty of sleep.

Find Cancer Treatment in NJ, CT, & MD

Patients who have been diagnosed with cancer can receive cutting-edge compassionate care at Regional Cancer Care Associates. The experienced medical team treats all cancer types and blood disorders, and provides resources on wellness and nutrition for patients with cancer. Treatment options at Regional Cancer Care Associates include:

For more information, request an appointment at one of RCCA’s 20+ locations in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, or the Washington, D.C., area.