Nutrition and cancer recovery are two things that are inseparable from each other. Balanced nutrition is very important for people in general. In cancer patients, the need for nutrition is more important for recovery. The reason is, there is a risk of nutritional deficiencies in cancer patients for various reasons. If the problem is not addressed, their recovery may be hampered and life-threatening risks may appear.
Nutritional Disorders in Cancer Patients
Nutritional disorders are common in cancer patients. The National Cancer Institute in the United States noted that one in three cancer patients passed away because their nutritional needs were not met. The problem is, the impact of cancer and the treatments it requires can make it difficult for patients to eat and drink as before. As a result, it is hard to meet nutritional needs and the patients’ recovery will be affected.
Cancer and cancer treatments can affect the senses of taste and smell and also the appetite of the patients. The ability to absorb balanced nutrients from food is also decreased. Cancer treatments that may affect patients’ nutritional adequacy include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, surgery, and stem cell transplantation.
As a result, they are prone to nutritional deficiencies so that their bodies look thin, weak and tired, and unable to fight infections or complete cancer treatment. Consequently, the cancer can grow faster and spread to other parts of the body. That is why it is important to be attentive to nutrition in cancer patients.
Common causes of malnutrition in cancer patients are anorexia and cachexia. Anorexia is a loss of appetite, which is a common symptom of cancer. Cachexia is a condition characterized by weakness and loss of weight, fat, and muscle mass. Oftentimes this condition is experienced by people with cancer that attacks the digestive system. A cancer patient may suffer from anorexia and cachexia at the same time.
Depression that usually occurs when a person is diagnosed with cancer can also cause nutritional deficiencies. Due to depression, the diet of cancer patients may change, for example, they become reluctant to eat or eat less. Ultimately, this condition will interfere with the patients’ nutritional and recovery needs.
Recovery After Cancer Therapy
After treatment, cancer patients surely want to regain their health as soon as possible. But there is a process that must be passed in order for the recovery to go according to plan. Usual recommendations given by doctors to patients for recovery after cancer therapy include:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a balanced diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get enough rest
- Reduce stress
- Avoid smoking and alcoholic beverages
By following these recommendations, patients are more likely to recover and improve their quality of life. In order to meet nutritional needs and get a proper recovery, patients must consult a nutritionist to obtain a diet plan and dietary recommendations with balanced nutrition. Also, to find out if the patients need multivitamin supplements or not.
The Role of Proper Nutrition in Cancer Patients
Balanced nutrition plays an irreplaceable role in cancer patients’ recovery. Everyone’s nutritional needs are different, especially with cancer. The care team will help identify nutritional targets and strategies to achieve them. When nutritional needs are met, cancer patients will feel better. Other benefits include:
- Increase strength and energy
- Maintain body weight and store nutrients
- Adapt to the side effects of cancer treatment
- Lower the risk of infection
- Help in faster recovery
- Prevent loss of muscle mass, bones, blood, and other organs
- Improve quality of life
Ways to Get Adequate Nutrient Intake for Cancer Patients
Cancer patients are usually treated by a care team consisting of various medical personnel with their particular expertise. One of them is a nutritionist who is responsible for the nutrition and recovery of the patient. Nutritionist will help the patients get an adequate balanced nutritional intake by preparing a diet plan according to the nutritional needs of the patients.
Here are some recommended ways to meet the nutritional and recovery needs:
- Prioritize the essential nutrients the body needs, such as protein, carbohydrate, vitamin, and mineral.
- Manage the weight, adjust the diet when body weight is less or more than ideal.
- Try to adapt an active lifestyle as much as possible, such as doing a morning walk routine every morning.
The best sources of nutrition are fruits and vegetables. But patients may need supplements to ensure the needs of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and other nutrients are met. Some patients with certain conditions may not be able to get nutrients by oral so they need an assistive device. For example, an IV inserted into a vein or a tube inserted into the stomach or intestines.
Nutrition and Recovery at Home
Patients are expected to meet their nutritional needs and recover at home. For this reason, family members should play an active role in the nutrition and recovery of the patients. To ensure that they receive balanced nutrition, guidance from the care team, especially nutritionist, is needed. The nutritionist will work with the patients, the patients’ family, and other experienced members of the care team until treatment is completed.
Balanced nutrition cannot be ignored by patients because there is a huge risk hidden behind it. Due to lack of nutrition, the patients’ recovery can be hindered and the cancer can spread. Cancer that was controlled previously can also grow back. In addition, patients may experience complications such as heart disease, diabetes, bone calcification, even death. Therefore, addressing the nutritional needs of cancer patients should be part of the recovery program at home.