Fighting Cancer with Nutrition: April 16, 2017
It’s common for patients to lose their appetite during cancer treatment. Health experts say that’s especially true for patients diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer.
Taylor Lawless, a clinical oncology dietitian with Lee Health, works closely with patients diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer. “Some people get peg tubes which are a tube that goes directly into your stomach. Because their throat gets so irritated, they can no longer swallow. If that’s the case, I teach them how to use that.”
Patients can even have difficulty chewing and swallowing. “A lot of times their throat is so irritated that it’s like having sandpaper rubbed at the back of your throat so it’s raw and really painful to swallow, so working closely with them to find things that won’t irritate their throat is key,” said Lawless.
Lawless helps them find foods that are high in calorie, nutritious, and easy to eat. Things like avocado and protein shakes are popular. The goal is to keep the patient hydrated and nourished throughout their cancer treatment. “To maintain their weight and their nutritional status, to make sure they aren’t getting dehydrated because they don’t even want to swallow water sometimes, or the water will taste different, so dealing with the taste changes and swallowing issues we want to keep them basically where they started,” said Lawless.
She also stays in touch with the patient’s physicians to help address any other problems or concerns they may be having. “A lot of them have weight loss, because when you can’t eat of course your weight is going to go down so I work with keeping their weight as stable as we can,” said Lawless.
Making sure the patient maintains a healthy diet during treatment is a vital piece of the recovery.