Guide to Managing Your Chemotherapy Treatment: Nutrition

MD Anderson Cancer Center
Date: November 2012

>> Nutrition is very important during chemotherapy. It helps you manage side effects, maintain a healthy weight, maintain muscle, and keep hydrated. 

>> If your body is malnourished or if you're not getting adequate nutrition, part of the chemotherapy is not able to work because your body doesn't have enough energy to essentially carry the chemotherapy where it needs to go or to fight off, essentially the cancer cells.  So, one of the main goals when patients are undergoing chemotherapy is just to get them to eat. 

>> Those times when you really do feel like you can eat something, you have a craving for something, it can be something outlandish, it can be at any time of the day; I feel like a, a taco salad, and it's like okay Angela its two-thirty in the morning what do you mean you want a taco salad, but if you feel like that and you're cravings are right there, you need to get it, because you don't know when you will be hungry again and when you will have the will to eat something. 

>> We absolutely encourage patients to be sure that they're getting good amounts of fruits and vegetables and concentrating on low fat protein sources, such as dairy, meats, fish, and eggs. 

>> I think probably one of my first reactions in chemo was, oh gee, I'm going to lose weight; this is a perfect plan.

>> When you are undergoing treatment is not the time to look at losing weight, patients who take this approach often end up in trouble because they're unable to control their weight loss and they end up losing too much weight where malnutrition becomes an issue. 

>> Also some patients may gain weight during chemotherapy. 

>> Steroids do cause you to retain fluids so some of that excess weight that you may experience while undergoing steroid therapy is fluid related, some of it might be due to the increase appetite and that's something that your doctor and dietician will have to monitor. 

>> A registered dietician is available to evaluate and assess your individual nutritional needs, answer questions about nutrition and cancer and provide education on various aspects of nutrition during and after cancer treatment.  You doctor or nurse can arrange an appointment for you or you can call the Department of Clinical Nutrition directly.