Diet & Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

Nutrition & Cancer Treatment

A Healthy Diet Is Important at Each Step in the Cancer Journey

Eating problems like nausea or decreased appetite are common during cancer treatment. These problems can make it hard to feel well and eat healthy. Eating healthy can:

  • Help with side effects like nausea, diarrhea, or taste changes.
  • Help maintain body weight and muscle mass.
  • Help give you more energy.
  • Help prevent delays or breaks in treatment.
  • Help prevent hospital stays or reduce the time you are in the hospital.
  • Help improve how well you respond to treatment.
  • Help improve how well treatment works.

Food Safety During Treatment

It is important to handle food safely during cancer treatment. Cancer and cancer treatment can weaken your immune system and make you more prone to infection. This includes infection from foods. The following tips are helpful ways to keep your food safe.

  • Wash your hands before eating.
  • Keep surfaces that come into contact with food clean.
  • Keep hot foods hot (above 140°F) and cold foods cold (below 40°F).
  • Avoid cross-contaminating raw meats and vegetables. Store raw meat on the lowest shelf to avoid juices contaminating other foods.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables well before eating.
  • Avoid high risk foods like undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish and unpasteurized milk or cheese.
  • Avoid high risk foods like sushi, ceviche, raw bean and alfalfa sprouts, foods from street vendors, and self-serve buffets.
  • Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator and not on the counter.
  • Refrigerate foods promptly after eating.
  • Your healthcare team may give you more specific instructions.

Coping With Eating Problems From Cancer Treatment

Cancer can be overwhelming. There are so many questions, issues, and concerns that can come up. It is important to talk to your healthcare team about your questions and concerns.

A way to be an active partner with your healthcare team is to keep a food and symptom journal. It will help you track what you eat and your side effects. Show this journal to your healthcare team often so they can address and manage any issues. It will help your team manage your treatment and recommend the healthiest diet for you.

Side effects like being tired or having nausea, diarrhea, or constipation are normal during treatment. Most often, these issues go away after treatment ends. We offer tips on how to cope with common eating problems caused by cancer treatment below.