Cancer Treatment

Nutritional Support

According to the National Cancer Institute, about one-third of all cancer deaths are related to malnutrition. Proper nutrition for cancer patients is important. Cancer can deplete your body's nutrients and cause weight loss. Cancer and cancer treatment can also have a negative effect on your appetite, and your body's ability to digest foods. These factors may leave you in a vulnerable condition - high nutrient need, and low nutrient intake.

The first step in the development of your individualized nutrition plan is assessment. The assessment may include:

  • Laboratory analysis of the blood - this determines status of your immune system (immunocompetence) and protein stores.

  • Medical history and nutrition interview - this offers the nutritional team insight into your appetite, food preferences, the status of your digestive system, and any existing or potential complications.

  • Computerized diet profile - a three-day nutrient intake analysis completed by you.

  • Nutrition anthropometrics - body measurements are made to determine your percent of body fat and loss of lean tissue.

These additional tests may be performed:

  • Indirect calorimetry - a simple breathing test to measure your calorie requirements.

  • Nitrogen balance - measurement of protein loss to determine if protein is being utilized properly by your body.

You are encouraged to eat foods that provide optimal nutritional benefit. A registered dietitian consults with you to develop an individualized meal plan. Selections include fish, poultry, legumes, low-fat yogurt, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, and other healthy food choices.

To help maintain proper nutrition for cancer patients, vitamin and mineral supplements help provide nutrients that your diet may not, and offer a boost where illness may have depleted your body. A supplementation plan should include nutrients that may support your immune system and may reduce toxic side effects.

For more on the importance of nutrition for cancer patients, and helpful cancer nutrition information from others living with cancer, take the time to visit our Message Board Discussions.

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