Nausea, appetite changes, weight gain or loss: these are all common side effects for patients being treated for cancer. And, as with every step on your cancer care journey, you aren’t alone when it comes to coping with side effects. Not only can your doctor help by prescribing medications, but oncology dietitians are also available to help patients stay well nourished, hydrated – and comforted.
Patients struggling to eat because of side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, change in taste, swallowing problems and fatigue should communicate these issues to their care team. While we dietitians welcome patients who come to us on their own, we really rely on the doctors, nurses and other members of your care team to lead you to us. So, be sure to express eating or nutritional concerns at any appointment.
Staying Nourished and Hydrated are Our Main Goals
The main goals of an oncology dietitian are to keep patients nourished and hydrated. We’ll meet with you, your family and others in your support network to assess your side effects, your energy and the level of day-to-day support you have at home. We’ll take all these factors into consideration to tailor an eating and nutrition plan that will work for your individual circumstances.
Sometimes patients have problems swallowing or their taste for food has changed. For them, a soft, bland or liquid diet might be in order. Some patients might think ice cream sounds good. People are surprised to learn that during cancer treatment, we’re not so concerned that you eat a well-balanced diet. We’re more focused on making sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to keep your energy levels up, help your body grow healthy cells and make you feel good. If ice cream makes you feel good, then we’ll work it in.
Let the Experts Help
There’s lots of information on the internet. Some is helpful, some not so helpful. Try not to become alarmed by what you read on the web, or what another patient might advise you in the waiting room. The results of various studies sometimes conflict and trying to take everything in can be overwhelming. Remember, every patient is unique and responds differently to medications and treatments. Let us help you develop an individualized plan to keep you feeling the best you can.
Help Prevent Disease with Sound Nutrition
Along with providing expertise and support for cancer patients, the oncology dietitians also teach classes to the general community about nutrition and how eating well can help prevent cancer. We advocate getting back to the basics: whole foods, natural foods, lots of water, exercise and healthy habits.
We get so used to the instant gratification of our highly-technological world that we forget good eating and nutrition habits take a little time and planning. Yes, there’s work involved, but it’s not impossible to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Not only will you and your family be healthier, but eating well can also help prevent diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. And, if you’re still worried about the time involved, think about how much time it takes to be sick.
Contact an Oncology Dietitian in Your Area
To find out more about the services your local oncology dietitians offer, visit your regional cancer center web sites:
- Montana: Partner with a dietician at Providence St. Patrick Hospital
- Eastern Washington (greater Spokane area)
- Northwest Washington (greater Seattle area)
- Southwest Washington (Aberdeen, Centralia and Olympia)