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CancerResource: Treatment and Care

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Additional Resources

Healthy Eating

For someone facing the demands of cancer treatment, eating healthy provides nutrients that can fuel the body and aid in healing and also help in maintaining a healthy weight.

Special nutritional challenges are bound to arise throughout treatment because the side effects of therapies can result in changes in your eating habits and differences in the way your body uses nutrients. Nutritional needs and eating habits are affected differently depending on the type of cancer and its treatment.

Here are some suggestions for managing common eating difficulties during cancer.

Many of these tips and food suggestions are based on the fact that the side effects listed above may make it difficult to eat a healthy, balanced diet sufficient to maintain weight. As a result, some of the suggested foods are higher in calories and are recommended temporarily to keep up your energy and prevent weight loss during treatment. Note, however, that if you are a woman with breast cancer (or are taking certain medications), unwanted weight gain can occur during treatment. If this is a concern for you, it may help to adjust your calorie intake to maintain a healthy weight.

Questions to Ask About Nutrition During Treatment

  1. Are there any changes I should make to my current diet?
  2. Should I be taking a multivitamin? (If you are taking supplements of any kind, bring a list of what you are taking and share it with your health practitioner and dietitian.)
  3. If my treatment is causing me to vomit often, should I be concerned about getting necessary nutrients?
  4. Should I try liquid meal replacements if I have trouble keeping solid food down?
  5. What if I just don’t feel like eating much for a couple days after treatment?

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Getting and Staying Active

The old advice to “just get plenty of rest” during cancer treatment has been updated. Today, research is showing that exercise, when carefully monitored, is a powerful tool to improve endurance, lessen fatigue and improve self-esteem. That’s why experts now recommend that you get and stay as active as you safely can.

If you were not exercising regularly before your diagnosis, take it slowly and carefully now. It is important to build up your level of activity in a step-by-step manner and to keep your oncologist and other providers informed.

Of course, how much activity you’re able to do during treatment depends on many factors related to your specific diagnosis, treatment, age and fitness level. Ask your health care team for guidance.

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Benefits of Being Active

Among cancer patients, moderate, carefully supervised physical activity has been shown to increase:

  • Quality of life
  • Muscle mass
  • Muscle strength and power
  • Aerobic fitness
  • Maximum walk distance
  • Immune system capacity
  • Physical function
  • Flexibility

… And has been shown to decrease:

  • Nausea
  • Body fat
  • Fatigue
  • Heart rate
  • Length of hospitalization
  • Symptoms/side effects
  • Resting blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

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Questions: Ask Our Staff

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