Cancer Diet


Q1. What should cancer patients take note of in their diet?
Cancer diet is closely related to one’s physical condition and treatment plan. In case of zero-stage breast cancer, a patient in need of surgery and radiotherapy can complete treatment by receiving adequate nutrients from a healthy diet. Patients with gastric cancer should pay more attention to what they eat, as they may need to undergo surgery and chemotherapy. Since poor appetite, indigestion, weight loss and malnutrition are common in patients with gastric cancer, foods that are easy to digest are preferred. Also they should switch to small, frequent meals with high-calorie, high-protein foods. 
Q2. Are cancer patients prone to malnutrition?
Cancer patients are more likely to suffer from malnutrition if they have a weight loss of more than 5%. Malnutrition may exacerbate the treatment side effects such as anaemia, low white blood cell count, or even result in treatment discontinuation. Therefore they are advised to receive diet therapy as early as possible, or cachexia may occur if weight loss continues, resulting in no response to cancer treatment and diet therapy. 
Q3. Should cancer patients avoid certain foods such as sugar and chicken?
There is no need for cancer patients to avoid certain foods. In respect of sugar, it is fine to have a low-sugar drink daily and two small portions of desserts each week. Cancer patients can also eat chicken, better without skin and cooked in a healthy way. Due to their weakened immune system, dietary hygiene is very important for patients on chemotherapy. Their food must be cooked thoroughly, and thin-skinned fruits such as grapes, blueberry, etc. should be avoided.
Q4. Do cancer patients need to drink nutritional milk?
There are some kinds of nutritional milk products for cancer patients, and it is recommended to have two cups a day. Nutritional milk is a convenient supplement for patients with malnutrition or poor appetite. They can be taken between meals. However, patients with good appetite may gain weight if they drink too much of it, while it may cause even higher blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. You may consult your doctor, nurse or dietitian for more advice.
Q5. Which types of cancer require diet therapy?
Patients should consider consultation with a dietitian if they have head and neck cancer such as oral cancer and nasopharyngeal carcinoma, or gastrointestinal cancers such as oesophageal cancer, gastric cancer and pancreatic cancer. Most of these patients may have insufficient nutrition due to swallowing difficulties and digestive problems. For example, a patient with head and neck cancer receives six cycles of chemotherapy and 35 sessions of radiation therapy. In the first consultation, a dietitian will explain to the patient and his/her family the importance of sufficient calories, high-protein intake and related food choices. The dietitian will also tell them in advance the possible side effects during the middle and late stage of treatment such as mouth ulcer and pain while swallowing, and accordingly any necessary diet adjustment, change in food texture, even the serving size of nutritional milk. These measures can ensure adequate nutrient intake and prevent substantial weight loss.
Q6. What should patients do after cancer treatment?
Upon completion of all cancer treatments, it is crucial for patients to take rest and eat well in the short term. As the haemoglobin and white blood cells have not returned to their normal levels after the last cycle of chemotherapy, it is important to maintain an iron-rich and high-protein diet.  When you begin to regain strength and have normal blood results, try to follow the recommendations of World Cancer Research Fund and maintain a healthy body weight, eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes, consume less red meat and processed meat, drink less high-sugar beverages, limit alcohol intake and exercise more regularly.

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