Appropriate Nutrition when Fighting Cancer

Statement Describing the Challenge

My health profile did not indicate any significant health problems relating to cancer. However, my mother’s side of the family has a history with the disease. My maternal grandfather died of lung cancer (he was a non-smoker) and my maternal grandmother has suffered from breast cancer twice. My aunt has also been battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the past five years. Unfortunately, it appears as if I may be genetically predisposed to cancer’s lasting consequences. Cancer is a worldwide illness comprised of over 100 specific diseases in which groups of cells act uncontrollably outside their normal function. It can occur in almost every part of the body from the brain to the colon and affects nearly 10 million people each year in the United States alone. With a combined survival rate of only 50%, any resource available to provide hope and increase chances is of the highest value. Current cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, focus on killing cancer cells but also damage healthy cells in the process. These types of treatments have several side-effects that affect the ability to maintain a healthy nutrition. These effects include, but are not limited to: loss of appetite, weight change (loss and gain), sore throat, periodontal problems, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and lactose intolerance. Consequently, supplying the body with specific nutrition needs, different from those of a normal diet, is extremely important. A balanced diet recommended by a dietician helps the body regain required nutrients, vitamins, and energy needed for the body to heal. Frequently, it is suggested that cancer patients increase protein by eating more dairy and meat than is normally recommended to provide building blocks for muscles that the body needs. In fact, the National Cancer Institute suggests that patients “plan ahead” and keep easy to make items such as peanut butter, tuna fish, eggs and cheese handy. A significant increase in calorie intake is often suggested to reverse weight loss. Also, some anti-cancer drugs have other unusual side-effects. For example, pain medications regularly cause constipation. In these cases, a diet higher in fiber and fluids may be enacted. Equally important is what cancer patients do not eat. Cutting back on sodium, fats, sugars and alcohol is obviously extremely beneficial when combating cancer.

Non-Drug Treatments

Regular exercise (as much as possible) is recommended. It has been noted that women with breast cancer that do aerobic exercise for 30 minutes 3 times a week have experienced a physical and emotional boost. Also, balanced diet with more fruits and vegetables helps prevent cancer.

Alternative Medicine Treatments

One user in a cancer support forum suggested that classical music had helped him relieve stress. Other professionals suggest alternative therapies (immuno-augmentive, heat shock protein, and dendritic cell)

Drug Therapy

Chemotherapy, radiation treatments