Each year 12.7 million people worldwide discover they have cancer. Regardless of the diagnosis, cancer treatment can cause a lot of obstacles; one of the biggest is eating.
Valerie Butram, an oncology educator with Lee Health, says the sight, smell, even taste of food is different, making eating and drinking a challenge during cancer treatment. “That’s where sometimes patients can get really frustrated.”
Food is an essential part of cancer treatment, which is why nutritionists like Taylor Lawless work closely with patients to help them find foods to eat. “Each one of us is very, very different nutrition wise and what I might prescribe for one person might be very different than what I might prescribe for another.”
Before patients begin cancer treatment, they meet with a nutritionist to help them establish a nutrition plan. There, several things are considered like dietary needs, religious needs, allergies, and what type of cancer the patient has. “First, I’ll look at what their treatment plan is so are they getting chemo, surgery, or radiation? If they have chemo they will have different side effects than if they get radiation,” said Lawless.
During treatment, loss of taste or new food allergies can develop. Maintaining a patients’ weight is essential to their recovery. “If you have breast or prostate cancer, a lot of times those patients, because of their treatments, start to gain weight as opposed to lose weight. So I don’t recommend very high calorie things for them,” said Lawless. Whereas patients diagnosed with cancers like pancreatic, colorectal, ovarian, or lung, are likely to lose weight making a high calorie diet important. “You have a stronger body when your weight is staying stable, especially if you’re maintaining your muscle mass, so it makes you able to endure the things like nausea and vomiting better,” said Lawless.
While food and water tastes different during treatment, experts make sure patients have the knowledge they need to stay nourished.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.