It is common knowledge that good nutrition is essential for a healthy life. Eating well makes people healthier and happier. Good nutrition is especially important for people with cancer. All patients can benefit from a better diet, even if that diet changes through the course of their cancer.
Many well-documented studies have linked nutrition to the development and prevention of some forms of cancer. As patients deal with breast cancer surgery, mesothelioma treatment side effects and other therapy symptoms, a change in diet may improve their prognosis.
Each patient faces varying nutritional needs because each cancer and its associated treatment affect people differently. Radiation and chemotherapy are notorious for causing nutrition-related side effects. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, mouth sores and swallowing difficulties are some of the common side effects of cancer treatment. These symptoms can further complicate eating and cause malnutrition.
Malnourishment makes cancer patients tired, weak, susceptible to infections and often unable to handle treatment. Most patients benefit from adding more protein and calories to their diet. Protein in particular provides strength and energy, fights infection and improves healing.
Other nutrients are necessary to sustain health and improve quality of life including carbohydrates, fats, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and water. Certain herbs and nutritional supplements may also benefit cancer patients. Nutritionists and dietitians can help patients create a healthy diet suited to their specific needs.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that healthy eating can relieve pain and lessen some of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with cancer. Eating well during treatment often leads to better outcomes too. The effect of nutrition on cancer patients really depends on the type and stage of cancer as well as the treatment method, but reducing symptoms and feeling better greatly enhances quality of life.
Good nutrition requires time, effort and planning on the part of cancer patients and their caregivers. Planning is especially important as it can alleviate some of the stress involved with shopping, meal preparation and nutritional supplementation.
Patients who need help with some of the practical aspects of nutrition maintenance should talk to their doctor or dietitian. Professionally prepared meal plans, shopping lists and the like can greatly relieve the burden from patients and caregivers.
Support groups can also help patients cope with nutrition during cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) provides a list of national support groups on their website, and they also help patients find local support programs and services.