What Might Affect Nutrition During Chemotherapy, and How Should You Adjust Your Diet?

Cancer Treatment's Affect on Nutrition

Nutrition can be affected by symptoms experienced due to cancer and cancer treatments, as well as psychological involvement such as depression or anxiety.

For cancer patients, nutrition during chemotherapy is important. The main goal before, during, and after treatments is to maintain adequate calories for weight maintenance and adequate protein to optimize your immune system, strength, and tolerance to treatments.  While striving for adequate calories and protein during chemotherapy, try to include a well-balanced diet to minimize nutritional deficiencies, ask your physician or dietitian  for information about whether  a multi-vitamin would be right for you.

For cancer patients, diet and nutrition during chemotherapy must be based on what is tolerated by managing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation , taste changes, dry mouth , mouth pain or sores, poor appetite, early satiety or fullness, and fatigue.  It is important to manage these symptoms while maintaining the goals for adequate calories and protein.

How Will Treatment Affect My Ability to Eat?

Surgery- A high calorie, high protein diet prior to surgery may be indicated to minimize malnutrition.  Depending on the type of surgery, a typical post-operative diet may include intravenous nutrients and fluid, nutrition via a tube in your nose, stomach or intestines; or a clear liquid diet (juice, tea, coffee, broth, fruit ice, gelatin, Popsicles).  The diet may progress to a full liquid diet (milk, pudding, cream soup, ice cream, sherbet, hot, cereal, etc.) prior to your regular diet plan.

The diet may need to be advanced slowly after your surgery to wait for proper bowel function or digestion to occur.

Chemotherapy may cause side effects that can affect your ability to eat and maintain your current level of nutrition.  These include nausea, vomiting, taste changes, appetite changes, mucositis or mouth sores, fatigue, diarrhea, and/or constipation.

Radiation Therapy.  The dietary effects of radiation depend on the area of the body that is being radiated.

  • Treatment of head, neck, or chest may cause taste changes, mouth pain, throat pain, diarrhea, dry mouth, dental problems, and/or dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).  Dry mouth may be permanent.
  • Treatment of stomach may cause nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

Immunotherapy may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sore mouth, severe weight loss (anorexia), dry mouth, and/or taste changes.

Note:  We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition , treatments, and nutrition during chemotherapy . The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.

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