Diet and Nutrition in Cancer

Diet and Nutrition in Cancer

My Relative is on treatment for Cancer. What diet should they follow?

This is a common question that is asked by patients who are on treatment for Cancer. Patients wrongly assume that changing their diet drastically has a beneficial effect to them. Commonly, importance is given for fresh fruit, juices and soups in place of a normal diet.

Patients with cancer and those on treatment normally would have a reduced appetite and are unable to eat large quantities of food. Patients with advanced cancer commonly lose weight.

The recommendations regarding diet during cancer treatment are as follows:

  • To eat a normal balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.
  • Do not replace this normal diet with juices, soups etc as they do not have enough calories, protein or fat.
  • In patients who are not able to eat large quantities at once, eat small meals more times a day
  • For those patients who are not able to take enough calories, fat or proteins in their normal diet can add protein or calorie supplements to their diet. It is important to note that supplements are in addition to normal food and not instead of a normal diet
  • For patients on Chemotherapy, it is advisable not to eat raw foods and salads as there is a risk of an infection from them.
  • Freshly cooked food at home is the best bet. Outside food is ok as long as it is made in a hygienic way.
  • In patients where swallowing is a problem, food can be given with the help of a nasogastric tube (tube inserted through the nose into the stomach) or a PEG tube (tube inserted directly into the stomach through the skin).
  • For those patients who eat non
  • vegetarian food, it can be continued as it is a good source of protein and fat.
  • There no generally recommended dietary modifications or restrictions that are needed for a specific cancer. For example, there are theories that cutting down dairy or fat in Prostate cancer is helpful but it is not definite and hence not recommended.
  • There is no need to add supplements or other food items to a diet if a person on cancer treatment is eating normally and not losing weight.