Nutrition Facts Every Cancer Survivor Should Know About

According to the 2011 American Cancer Society estimates, 17 people are diagnosed with cancer each week in Chautauqua County indicating that most of us know someone in our circle of family, friends and neighbors who has been diagnosed with cancer.

For many patients diagnosed with cancer, the effects from cancer treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation make it difficult to eat or drink. Nutrition is a process in which food is taken in and used by our body for growth, to keep the body healthy, to replace tissue, and essential for good health. Since our body’s energy source comes directly from the food and drink sources we absorb, we need to ensure that we provide our body with adequate amounts of protein, carbs, “good” fat, water, vitamins and minerals to stay well, prevent infection, and heal quickly. For patients diagnosed with cancer, eating a well-balanced daily diet reduces the likelihood of weight loss and helps them feel better and stay stronger during and after treatment.

Many of the side effects from cancer and cancer treatment can affect a person’s ability to eat properly including the loss of appetite, mouth sores, dry mouth, trouble swallowing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, pain or depression and anxiety.

Dr. Theresa Pagliuca, board-certified oncologist on staff at the WCA Hospital Cancer Treatment Center, tells us that even the thought or smell of food can make us feel nauseated and sick and prevent us from eating well.

“Tolerance to certain foods can be compromised during cancer treatment,” Pagliuca said. “Those once-favorite foods may not taste right during treatment or may cause symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. Many patients do better eating small servings-five or six times during the day-instead of three normal-sized meals. Strong food odors can also aggravate nausea. If food odors are a problem, eating foods at room temperature or chilled help reduce the side effects. The American Cancer Society states that we can decrease our risk of developing cancer or decrease the risk of reoccurrence by reducing the large portion sizes from our daily diet. It is estimated that over 90,000 cancer deaths per year could be avoided if we maintain a normal weight. Clearly, obesity is a major risk factor for cancer.”

The cumulative effects from cancer treatment can cause havoc on the body’s ability to tolerate even the thought of food. Here are some mindful tips on how to manage good nutrition:

Be sure to tell your doctor, nurse, dietitian or other member of your health care team that you are having difficulty eating and drinking.

Eat smaller portions and eat more frequently throughout the day.

Drink sips of water with meals and increase the fluid intake in between meals with low sugar content shakes or smoothies.

Keep the body well-hydrated. This helps flush toxic substances out of the body and keeps the body well-hydrated.

Increase the consumption of plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables) and minimize the intake of red meats and saturated fats.

Try a variety of different foods. The foods you may be accustom to eating or love to eat may be intolerable during treatment.

Make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D or supplements in your daily diet.

Good nutrition is vitally important for patients diagnosed with cancer. WCA Hospital is offering free classes, “Nutrition Every Cancer Survivor Should Know About” Oct. 1, Dec. 3, Feb. 4, 2015, April 1, 2015, and June 3, 2015, at 2 p.m. in the WCA Cancer Treatment Conference Room, for patients undergoing treatment, their families, healthcare givers, and the general public. To register for the classes, call 664-8677. A registered dietitian teaches individuals how eating the right kinds of foods before, during and after cancer treatment can help them feel better and stronger.

Toni DeAngelo, R.N., community health and wellness director at WCA Hospital, is a certified tobacco cessation specialist and patient navigator with more than 30 years of experience in critical care nursing and community health. For a free brochure on men’s health, “Tune-Up For Life, Maintenance Checklist, contact DeAngelo directly at 664-8677.

We invite our readers to submit a question or health topic of interest for WCA Health Talk by visiting the WCA Hospital website at and clicking the Contact Us button at the top, right-hand side of the home page to submit your questions, comments or suggestions.

This health column in no way seeks to serve as a substitute for professional medical care. Consult your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guideline.