All the methods of treating cancer like surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy (immunotherapy) are very powerful.
Although these cancer treatments target the fast-growing cancer cells in your body, healthy cells can also be damaged. Healthy cells that normally grow and divide rapidly, such as those in the mouth, digestive tract, and hair, are often affected by cancer treatments. The damage to healthy cells is what produces the unpleasant side effects that cause eating problems.
Side effects of cancer treatment vary from patient to patient. The part of the body being treated, the type and length of treatment, and the dose of treatment determine whether side effects will occur. The good news is that not everyone has side effects during treatment, and most side effects go away when cancer treatment ends. Side effects can also be well-controlled with new drugs. Talk to your doctor about possible side effects from your treatment and what can be done about them.
Some eating problems are caused by the treatment itself. Other times, patients may have trouble eating because they are upset, worried, or afraid. Losing your appetite and nausea are two normal responses to feeling nervous or fearful. Once you get into your treatment period and have a better sense of what to expect and how you will react, these anxiety-related eating problems should get better.
Here are some things to keep in mind during cancer treatment:
- When you can eat, try to eat meals and snacks with sufficient protein and calories; they will help you keep up your strength, prevent body tissues from breaking down, and rebuild tissues that cancer treatment may harm.
- Many people find their appetite is better in the morning. Take advantage of this and eat more then. Consider having your main meal of the day early, and have liquid meal replacements later on if you don’t feel so interested in eating.
- If you don’t feel well and can eat only one or two things, stick with them until you are able to eat other foods. Try a liquid meal replacement for extra calories and protein.
- On those days when you can’t eat at all, don’t worry about it. Do what you can to make yourself feel better. Come back to eating as soon as you can, and let your doctor know if this problem doesn’t get better within a couple of days.
- Try to drink plenty of fluids, especially on those days when you don’t feel like eating. Water is essential to your body’s proper functioning, so getting enough fluids will ensure that your body has the water it needs. For most adults, 6-8 cups of fluid a day are a good target. Try carrying a water bottle with you during the day. That may help you get into the habit of drinking plenty of fluids.
Read Side Effects of Cancer Treatments to learn the things that cancer patients may experience during their cancer treatment and ways to help solve these problems.
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