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Nutrition in Cancer Care
There is a lot you can do to give yourself the best chance to win the fight against cancer. Staying nutritionally fortified is one positive way to take control of your life and your well- being. Optimal nutrition allows your body to function at its best. Maintaining optimal nutrition can provide several benefits for people living with cancer, including:
- Support immune function
- Preserve lean body cell mass
- Rebuild body tissue
- Decrease your risk of infection
- Improve strength and increase energy
- Improve your tolerance to treatment
- Help you recuperate faster after treatment
- Improve quality of life
Good nutrition is essential to keep you strong—to increase the chance that your cancer treatment goes uninterrupted. Your body needs more "fuel" than normal during this time, because it needs to repair from the effects of cancer treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. If you are unable to consume the fuel you need, your body will soon draw upon what it has stored—fat and protein. When your body uses stored protein, malnutrition and impaired functioning of your immune system may result.
According to the National Cancer Institute, about one-third of all cancer deaths are related to malnutrition. Therefore, it is important to give your body a constant supply of nutrients to use as fuel during the healing process. This supply of nutrients includes calories from all macronutrients, including carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Dietitians can help by making recommendations for how to keep you nourished with healthful foods and a well-balanced diet. Dietitians are health professionals with extensive training in nutrition who help with dietary choices.
Nutrition at CTCA
The Nutrition Metabolic Support Department at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) aims to keep you strong and nutritionally balanced so your cancer treatment is not interrupted. The department is led by licensed and registered dietitians who provide expert care for you through comprehensive nutrition assessment, education and supplementation—with an emphasis on proactive nutrition intervention. Our goal for you is to prevent malnutrition, reduce side effects, promote positive healthy eating habits, and enhance your overall well-being and quality of life.
Nutrition Assessment and Plan
Upon your arrival at a CTCA hospital, you will be automatically scheduled to meet with one of our dietitians, who will be assigned specifically to you. At that time, you will receive an individualized, comprehensive nutrition assessment and plan. The assessment may include:
- Laboratory analysis of the blood – this determines the status of your immune system (immunocompetence) and protein stores
- Medical history and nutrition interview – this provides the nutrition team with insight into your appetite, food preferences, the status of your digestive system, and any existing or potential complications
- Nutrition anthropometrics – we will take body measurements to determine your percent of body fat and loss of lean tissue
During your care, you may receive the following additional tests:
- Indirect calorimetry – a simple breathing test to measure the amount of oxygen consumed (to assess your calorie requirements)
- Computerized diet profile – a three-day nutrient intake analysis completed by you
- Nitrogen balance – a measurement of protein loss to determine if your body is using protein properly
Your dietitian is a member of your overall care team and will support you throughout your entire continuum of care. Using your personalized nutrition plan, your dietitian will focus on managing side effects of cancer treatment, recommend supplements to improve your use of calories, and help find foods your body can tolerate. Your dietitian will also consult regularly with your oncologist and the other CTCA departments. This team approach enables you to get the attention you need and deserve.
Nutrition Therapies at CTCA
Personal Meal Plans
Adequate protein, calories and high-nutrient foods are essential during this time. As part of your care plan, your dietitian will recommend dietary options specific to you, including immune-boosting foods designed to reduce the toxicity of your cancer treatment. The goal is to complement your advanced cancer treatments with the fortifying effects of nutritional support.
Your dietitian will also work closely with our food service department to combine maximum nutritional benefits with spirit-lifting food enjoyment. The foods suggested in the meal plans are available in the dining rooms in each of our CTCA hospitals. Our dietitians will often implement new research findings into the menus. Selections include fish, poultry, legumes, low-fat yogurt, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, and other healthy food choices. We also offer a variety of protein powders and supplements to make sure you are getting the necessary nutrients if you are not able to keep whole foods down. We want to ensure that you receive a well-balanced diet rich in phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation
Vitamin and mineral supplements provide nutrients that your diet may not, and offer a boost where illness may have depleted your body. The CTCA supplementation plan includes nutrients that may help support your immune system and reduce toxic side effects. Your care team at CTCA may recommend daily dosages of various nutrients, including:
- Beta carotene
- Vitamin C
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Vitamin E
- Others as appropriate
Many of the supplements we recommend at CTCA hospitals come from our own line of 90+ highly-pure and potent nutritional supplements. CNCA supplements are science-based and abide by rigorous quality standards. These supplements were designed specifically with input from medical professionals to meet the needs of patients with compromised immune systems.
In addition to making dietary suggestions and helping design meal plans, our nutrition team provides continued support through education, including programs and classes on the relationship between a healthy diet and wellness. We aim to empower you with information and guide you in maintaining proper nutrition. CTCA also offers a weekly nutrition class and a monthly cooking class. These classes feature presentations on cooking with herbs, protein and calorie supplements, nutrition and cancer, superfoods, immune boosting foods, healthful cooking and more.
Should you require nutritional support, the dietitians from the nutrition team at CTCA, along with a physician, nurse and pharmacist, will work closely with you to make sure you receive proper nourishment. If you are unable to eat or digest food, we will provide nutrition parenterally (through a vein) or enterally (through a feeding tube).
Learn More: Healthy Recipes for Cancer Patients & Nutrition Tips
Watch the Wholesome Temptation™ cooking videos at the top of this page and order your copy of the Wholesome Temptation cookbook for delicious recipes we’ve developed for our patients.