Guest Post: Why Good Nutrition is Important to Cancer Patients


This guest post is provided by Jillian McKee.

Common Types of Cancer

The National Cancer Institute lists 12 more common cancers as bladder, breast, colorectal, endometrial,
kidney, leukemia, lung, melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, pancreatic, prostate and thyroid. Whether a
person has been diagnosed with any of these types of cancer or is undergoing mesothelioma cancer
treatment, there are guidelines concerning nutrition that may help before, during or after surgery and
treatment. Watching food and drink intake is not intended as a cure, but it is a way to keep up your energy
and minimize side effects while the cancer is being treated.

Before Surgery

Helpful guidelines for a person who has been diagnosed with cancer and must prepare for surgery are given
on a web site called Markey Menu: Nutrition for You. Karina Christopher, Registered Dietitian at the UK
Markey Cancer Center, recommends increasing high-quality proteins, adding foods rich in Omega-3 fatty
acids, and keeping fruits and vegetables in the diet. She also lists foods to be avoided including high-calorie
desserts.

Stocking the refrigerator and freezer ahead of time with easy-to-prepare meals will help maintain nutrition at
a time when energy levels are lower. Asking friends and family to help you shop for food when you can’t
handle that task will help you get all the items necessary for good health.

During Cancer Treatments

A person going through cancer treatments may not always feel like eating. Small, frequent meals when
appetite is increased is a good decision. A person who is involved in cancer treatments may need more
high-quality protein than at other times. Some of the good sources of protein include dried beans, dried
peas, nuts and eggs.

Avoiding fats are not as important as selecting the right ones. The right kinds of fats are helpful in storing
energy and insulating against chills. These include such foods as olive oil, corn oil and seafood.

Carbohydrates provide fuel for physical activities and are a well-spring of the energy your body
needs. Important sources of carbohydrates are whole grains. Some of the more common ones are whole
wheat, brown rice and rye (on a gluten free diet, brown rice is the only option in these three that would qualify as wheat and rye are not gluten free). Fruits and vegetables also provide needed carbohydrates. Other sources are
pastas, potatoes and bread (again, gluten free whole grains can be available for the pastas and bread, read your labels!).

Water is essential to any diet. Some water is included in the foods eaten, but more is needed to be sure
your body gets all it requires. The American Cancer Society recommends eight 8-ounce glasses of water
per day to be sure you get the water your body needs.

When Treatments are Finished

A well-balanced diet is essential to health for everyone, but may be more important when recovering from
cancer. As appetite increases, stay with the essentials that helped keep energy and well-being strong while
going through treatments. Maintaining a healthy weight may be more important than dieting. If under-
weight, consider adding sour cream to a baked potato or indulging in a milk shake. Keep whole grains and
plenty of water on the menu.

NOTE: Italicized items in parenthesis were added by Melina Young.

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