Importance of Nutrition in Cancer Treatment

Mar 18, 2014
Good nutrition is important for everyone, but especially for those undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Cancer

A diagnosis of cancer can be overwhelming and frightening. There are many aspects of the treatment that are out of a patient’s control, but diet is not one of them.

March Is National Nutrition Month

During National Nutrition Month, the specialized pharmacists and nurses in the Accredo Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center focus on bringing awareness to patients about the importance of making informed food choices and developing physical activity habits, in addition to counseling on medication and disease management.

These lessons are important for everyone but especially for those undergoing cancer treatment.

The Importance of Nutrition in Cancer Treatment

Proper nutrition plays an important role in disease management and is an essential component of the cancer journey. Good nutrition practices can help offer relief from negative symptoms and improve quality of life.

Eating well while being treated for cancer can help patients:

  • Feel better
  • Keep up strength and energy
  • Maintain weight and the body’s store of nutrients
  • Better tolerate treatment-related side effects
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Heal and recover faster

Preventing Adverse Effects

Many cancer drugs have side effects that can affect a patient’s eating habits and impact nutritional status. The severity of side effects depends on the therapy regimen, the individual’s response, supportive medications and physical status. It is important that patients speak with a registered dietitian and pharmacist who understand this relationship and the unique challenges it presents.

In some instances, food-drug interactions can lead to unwanted or even life-threatening effects. Sometimes food can interact with medication because a specific nutrient chemically changes the drug, neutralizing its effect. Other times food can decrease the medication’s ability to be absorbed or cause drug levels to increase, leading to possible toxicity. All of these scenarios have great potential to cause unwanted effects if you are not aware of the risk involved. Ask your pharmacist about food-drug interactions to learn more.

Active and thorough management of nutrition-related side effects throughout the course of treatment can have a positive effect on nutritional status and well-being. A balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals will provide the body nutrients it needs to help fight cancer.

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