Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment

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Before treatment begins

Until you start treatment, you won’t know what, if any, side effects you may have or how you will feel. One way to prepare is to look at your treatment as a time to focus on yourself and on getting well. Here are some other ways to get ready:

Make plans now

You can reduce your anxiety about treatment and side effects by taking action now. Talk to your cancer care team about the things that worry you. Learn as much as you can about the cancer, your treatment plan, and how you might feel during treatment. Planning how you’ll cope with possible side effects can make you feel more in control and ready for the changes that may come.

Here are some tips to help you get ready for treatment:

  • Stock your pantry and freezer with your favorite foods so you won’t need to shop as often. Include foods you know you can eat even when you’re sick.
  • Cook in advance, and freeze foods in meal-sized portions.
  • Talk to your friends or family members about ways they can help with shopping and cooking, or ask a friend or family member to take over those jobs for you. Be sure to tell them if there are certain foods or spices you have trouble eating.
  • Talk to your cancer care team about any concerns you have about eating. They can help you make diet changes to help manage side effects like constipation, weight loss, or nausea.

For those whose cancer treatment will include radiation to the head or neck, you may be advised to have a feeding tube placed in your stomach before starting treatment. This allows feeding when it gets hard to swallow, and can prevent problems with nutrition and dehydration during treatment.

For more information on coping, see the “To learn more” section and/or call your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.

Last Medical Review: 07/15/2015
Last Revised: 07/15/2015