Nutrition for Cancer Patients

Providing your body with balanced nutrition is an important part of your cancer treatment process. Eating the right foods in the right amounts can help you rebuild strength, maintain energy, overcome some side effects, and optimize the outcome of your cancer care. Nutrition can be complicated, though, especially when you are busy focusing on your diagnosis and treatment.

Dietitians are trained to help cancer patients with not just nutrition, but also exercise based on their specific diagnosis and health history. A dietician can help you understand your condition and provide information on how the foods you eat can affect it. The Willamette Valley Cancer Institute dieticians also assist patients who need tube feedings and supplemental nutrition due to surgery or treatment side effects.

We can create a personalized nutrition and activity plan based on your specific diagnosis, health history, and treatment plan. Our guidance can help you make food choices that do not aggravate your condition, and that help you feel better throughout treatment. Our dieticians at WVCI stay current with the latest nutrition information and research, and make evidence-based recommendations that focus on your individual needs. We can also help you make changes to your eating plan without settling for less taste.

Nutrition Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment

Should You Change Your Diet Before Cancer Treatments?

Good nutrition is always essential, of course, but it becomes particularly important when you have cancer. Early sessions will focus on the dietary changes you want to make right away.

“I just found out that I have cancer. What should I eat?

Our dieticians will help answer that question and provide valuable information about food that boosts your immune system, helps in the fight against cancer, and reduces the side effects of treatment.  

Dietary Changes During Treatment

Radiation and chemotherapy are powerful treatments, but they can also affect your appetite, sense of taste, and digestive system in ways that make eating a healthy diet more difficult. The WVCI dietitians can help you with your particular challenge whether it's maintaining, gaining, or losing weight. Nausea or poor appetite resulting from treatment can cause you to eat less. Vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can cause you to lose weight. You may gain weight during treatment, especially if you have breast, prostate, or ovarian cancer and are taking certain medicines or undergoing certain treatments.

Nutrition counseling during treatment can identify the type of diet you should follow to reduce the negative effects of radiation and chemotherapy, and to help you maintain a healthy weight. Your dietician can also suggest appetizing, healthy meals and snacks that are easy to prepare, eat, and digest. 

Our dieticians at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute are always glad to answer your questions about preparing and maintaining your personalized meal plan. Some of the most common questions we hear include:

  • How many calories and how much protein should I eat every day?
  • Which foods can control my appetite during treatment?
  • How much fluid should I drink every day?
  • What types of fluids should I drink?

Proper Nutrition Aids Healing

Research shows that eating the right foods at the right time can have a significant effect on healing and recovery. Eating well during your treatment can help:

  • Boost your immune system
  • Increase your energy
  • Decrease your risk of infection
  • Speed recovery time

Cancer treatment can trigger a number of unpleasant side effects that interfere with eating and digestion. These side effects include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Inflammation and sores in the mouth
  • Changes in the way food tastes
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Constipation, diarrhea

 WVCI dietician provides valuable information you can use to add or remove certain foods from your diet to help you avoid these side effects.

Good Nutrition During Cancer Treatment Is A Balancing Act

To function at its best, your body needs the right balance of vitamins, minerals, good carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein.

Calories are important too, as they provide your body with the energy it needs to get you through the day. Consuming too few calories can cause you to feel listless and tired, while consuming too many calories can cause you to gain unwanted weight. Your dietician can help you determine how many calories you should consume every day to maintain a healthy weight and to feel energized through your treatments.

Maintaining a Healthy Diet After Cancer Treatments

Nutrition continues to play an important role in your health once you have finished treatment. Often, cancer survivors have questions about the right type of nutrition for them after their cancer treatment is over. A healthy diet and lifestyle after treatment supports your recovery, helps manage long-term side effects of cancer treatments, strengthens your immune system, and can influence the recurrence of the disease. 

We invite all cancer survivors to meet with our WVCI dieticians after treatment to discuss dietary changes that can reduce the risk of recurrence. We are also glad to answer any questions you may have. Some of the most commonly asked questions include:

  • What should I eat after I finish cancer treatment?
  • What level of physical activity should I maintain?
  • Can I drink alcohol?
  • Does nutrition matter now that treatment is over?

Nutrition counseling after treatment provides the continuing support you need to stay healthy. Nutrition counseling can also help you develop an activity and exercise plan that contributes to your long-term well-being.

About Complementary and Alternative Medicines during Cancer Treatment

Every patient we see at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute is a unique individual – what you need to stay healthy will undoubtedly be different from what someone else needs.

It is always best to get your vitamins and minerals through food, of course, but eating nutritionally balanced meals is not always easy when you are going through treatments. Some of our patients ask us whether adding vitamin and mineral supplements could benefit their treatment. The answer varies from person to person, and from supplement to supplement. Some supplements will interfere with treatment, for example, while others boost and maintain wellness.

A wide variety of vitamin and mineral supplements are now available. These supplements include:

  • Protein-calorie supplements
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Herbal or botanical therapies
  • Antioxidants

A consultation with our dietician can help you determine if supplements are right for you. It is essential to tell your oncologist and dietician about all the vitamins and supplements you take, as supplements can interact with some types of medications. 

About our Nutrition Specialists

Our nutrition experts offer comprehensive, personalized nutrition advice for every patient at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute.

  • Shelly Kokkeler, MS, RD, CSO, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian who has specialized in oncology for more than 30 years. She shares with patients a concept called The New American Plate, created by the American Institute for Cancer Research. According to the guidelines set forth by the diet, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains or beans should account for two-thirds or more of your meals. Animal protein should account for one-third or less of your diet. The institute also recommends 30 minutes of activity or more on most days of the week.
    Shelly’s credentials include: 
    • Board certification as a specialist in oncology nutrition
    • Member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
    • Member of the Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group
  • Abby Traul, RD, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian who has more than 25 years of experience as a dietitian. Abby specialized as an oncology dietitian for 13 years in Idaho before moving to Oregon. She enjoys helping patients and their families optimize nutrition and minimize nutrition related side effects during cancer treatments.

    Abby’s credentials include:
    • Member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
    • Member of the Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group

Willamette Valley Cancer Institute’s dieticians can help you develop a healthy eating plan during your cancer treatment. If you would like to consult with one of our nutrition experts about a plan that fits your needs, ask your doctor or nurse for a referral, or call 541- 683-5001 to make an appointment.

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