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Nutrition, Cancer and Chemotherapy

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

My guest blogger today is  Ms. Tiffany Barrett, a Clinical Dietitian at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  Ms. Barrett writes about the importance of maintaining weight and adequate  protein intake while undergoing chemotherapy.

Maintaining adequate nutrition is an important part of your cancer treatment.  Eating a variety of foods will help you obtain the proper amount of calories and protein.  Getting enough protein is important to the healing process as your body uses protein to rebuild tissue.  Protein requirements are often higher in cancer patients because of the change in protein metabolism.  Without adequate protein the breakdown of lean body mass is increased from the demands of the tumor and treatment.  Loss of lean body mass can lead to inability to heal, decreased strength, weakened immune system, loss in independence and decreased quality of life.  And even if you are overweight, losing weight is not healthy or recommended during treatment.

 Try eating every 2-3 hours meals of protein and calorie dense foods.  Excellent protein sources include fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, legumes and soy.  There are several commercial oral supplements on the market to help provide higher calories and protein.  Add protein to foods by mixing protein powder or powdered milk to beverages, casseroles, soups, mashed potatoes or hot cereals.  Make your own smoothie or milkshake by adding whey protein isolate or egg protein powder.  These protein supplements can be found at most drug stores and nutrition stores.  To add variety and increased nutrition mix, blend with fresh or frozen fruits.  Good snack choices include peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit, cheese, yogurt and protein bars.  Think of food as the fuel necessary to get you through treatment.

Tiffany Barrett MS, RD, CSO, LD 

Clinical Dietitian

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

  1. February 25, 2010 at 22:10

    Most chemotherapy is delivered intravenously, although a number of agents can be administered orally (e.g., melphalan, busulfan, capecitabine). In some cases, isolated limb perfusion (often used in melanoma), or isolated infusion of chemotherapy into the liver or the lung have been used. The main purpose of these approaches is to deliver a very high dose of chemotherapy to tumour sites without causing overwhelming systemic damage.

  2. Lakshmi Mahan
    May 11, 2010 at 10:46

    Hi Ms. Barrett,

    I am a Master of Science – Dietetic Intern at the University of Florida. I am currently doing my Oncology rotation at the Shands at UF Cancer Center, and had a question I was hoping you could help me answer.

    Do you know what the protocol is in your facility regarding placement of feeding tubes for patients undergoing radiation therapy for head and neck cancer? Does your facility generally wait and see how the patient does before assessing need for a PEG? Or does your facility place a tube when radiation therapy is first initiated?

    At our facility there is no set protocols and use of feeding tubes depends on the physician seeing the patient. My preceptor is having a hard time trying to convince physicians to place tubes sooner rather than later, but I was wondering what practice at other cancer centers around the country is?

    I appreciate your assistance in this matter.

    Thank you
    Lakshmi Mahan
    MS-DI Student 2010
    University of Florida

    • May 11, 2010 at 13:06

      Lakshmi – I have forwarded your question on to Ms. Barrett for her response. Thank you for your question and interest in my website.
      – Mark

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