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Diet - cancer treatment

  • Definition

    People with cancer need special nutritional planning and management.

    See also: Radiation enteritis

    Alternative Names

    Cancer treatment and nutrition


    People with cancer are at risk for developing nutritional deficiencies. The deficiencies may be the result of the cancer itself, or the side effects of common cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

    Cancer directly affects your nutritional status by changing the body's metabolism and causing you to lose your appetite. Your body increases energy use, which means you need more calories to maintain your current weight and lean body mass. Cancer-associated loss of appetite is probably the result of physical changes but may also be due to a psychological response to the disease.

    Cancer also causes individual changes in the body's ability to break down carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These changes lead to the loss of muscle and fat.

    Several things may contribute to the type and degree of nutrient deficiencies:

    • Where in the body the cancer occurs
    • How severe the cancer is at the time of your diagnosis
    • What symptoms you have
    • The type of cancer treatment, and how often you receive it
    • Side effects associated with your cancer treatment
    • How the cancer affects your ability to eat and tolerate food and nutrients