Cancer is a general term used to designate a group of some 250 diseases distinguished by abnormal cell growth. Although some of the causes and risk factors are being identified, cancer is still an unexplained disease. Under normal conditions, each cell in the body develops in a very orderly fashion. In cancer, a cell undergoes uncontrolled, abnormal growth and a mass (tumor) is formed. If these cells stay exactly where they are formed, the cancer is said to be localized. If the cells spread to adjoining tissues or organs, or are carried to other parts of the body, the cancer is said to be regional or metastasized. Cancers that have spread are more difficult to control (and cure), so early detection and proper diagnosis translate into a better chance for successful treatment.
Cancer treatments vary with the type and spread of the cancer. Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, either alone or in some combination, have been used to treat many forms of cancer.
Chemotherapy refers to the delivery of anticancer medications into the body to destroy the cancer causing cells. Chemotherapy, in most cases, has the additional side effect of suppressing the patient's immune system, making them more vulnerable to infection. Patients receiving chemotherapy require proper nutrition to maintain their immune system, strength, and vitality.
BENEFITS OF PROPER NUTRITION AND DIET DURING CHEMOTHERAPY
1. Improves Tolerance Of Therapy
well nourished body is stronger and more resilient than a poorly nourished one. Studies have shown that nutrition can decrease the severity and duration of chemotherapy side effects such as vomiting, nausea, weakness, lowered immunity, and susceptibility to infection. There may be other specific side effects, but in general, people who eat well while on chemotherapy tend to feel better and stay more physically active and alert mentally.
Increases The Effectiveness Of Therapy
When patients feed themselves they also feed their cancer cells. Studies have shown that "well fed" cancer cells multiply more readily and are more susceptible to anticancer drugs than are slow growing undernourished cells. A good nutritional status may allow patients to withstand higher doses of drugs and increase the effectiveness of the therapy.
Speeds Recovery From Treatment
Nutrients are the building blocks the body uses to rebuild the normal tissues that have been affected by the chemotherapy. If the proper nutrients in the adequate amounts are available, this recovery process takes place much more quickly and efficiently than when deficiencies are present.
Regulates Your Weight
Many patients lose weight on chemotherapy, but some gain weight. Underweight and overweight are both undesirable for the chemotherapy patient. Both of these conditions can lead to weakness, lethargy, depression, embarrassment, and a lack of self esteem.
GOALS OF NUTRITIONAL MANAGEMENT IN THE CASE OF CANCER
- achievement and maintenance of reasonable weight.
- prevention or correction of nutritional imbalances and deficiencies.
Adequate calories to meet energy requirements, sufficient protein to permit tissue growth, fats, minerals, vitamins, and fluids all must be supplied in appropriate amounts to meet the patient's requirements. Careful attention to nutrition is important because malnutrition induced by cancer and its treatmentadversely affects the patient and complicates further treatment of the disease.
Appetite loss in cancer is apparently a varied symptom, with diverse causes. Attention must be paid to the individual causes. The following steps are recommended:
- determine symptoms that might be related to appetite loss.
- probe for specific food likes and dislikes.
- patients should be given nutritional and dietary counseling.
PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR EATING
GIVE FOOD A CHANCE: Remember that what sound unappealing today may sound good tomorrow.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE UP TIMES: When you feel well, take advantage of it by eating well and by preparing meals that you can freeze for the down days. On the good days, eat when you feel hungry, even if it isn't mealtime. It is important to eat foods with good nutritional value; many nutrients can be stored in your body for later use.
DISCUSS YOUR EATING PROBLEMS WITH YOUR DOCTOR: Before you try home remedies, be sure you problems are not symptoms needing medical attention, or unwanted side effects associated with the chemotherapeutic agent. DO NOT hesitate to ask your physician questions and to tell the doctor what seems to be bothering you.
MAKE USE OF TIME SAVERS: Take advantage of time saving and effort saving foods and appliances. These include foods that can be prepared as a meal in a dish with little preparation and cooking. Frozen dinners, when served with a fruit, milk, and canned foods, such as soups, spaghetti sauce, or gravies, can be mixed easily with fresh cooked meat for a good dinner.
ATMOSPHERE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE: An attractively set table with flowers or other such items can take your mind off a slumping appetite. Good odors also help such as baking bread and cakes. A glass of wine or beer with your doctor's approval prior to meals is helpful in generating an appetite.