Nutrition therapy for cancer patients runs a spectrum of definitions which include:
- maintaining the body’s immune system to keep a cancer patient in optimal condition, which will prevent an increase in hospital time while implementing traditional therapies
- a nutritional cancer prevention plan and post cancer nutrition plan
- battling cancer with complementary and/or alternative nutrition therapy
The goal of targeting nutrition during traditional therapies is two fold: to prevent malnutrition which can occur due to nausea, loss of appetite, and oral complications and to help the patient tolerate the therapies. Additionally many health care professionals believe that nutrition therapy can reduce the side effects of traditional therapies; this includes the ability to fight off common threats to the immune system such as infection.
Nutritional support of the cancer patient undergoing traditional therapies may include nutritional assessment and monitoring of ongoing nutritional status and can include enteral and parenteral nutrition for patients unable to tolerate oral intake.
- Enteral nutrition is for patients with oral, esophageal and/or stomach issues preventing normal ingestion of food. A tube is place either through the nose to the small intestine or stomach or the tube is placed directly into the stomach.
- Parenteral nutrition is an intravenous tool for supplementation or complete nutrition.
Alternative therapy is a plan of care that is utilized instead of the traditionally recommended therapy. Complementary therapy works hand-in-hand with traditional therapies.
The American Cancer Society lists important guidelines to understanding these therapies to help the cancer patient make informed decisions.
As with any plan of care, nutrition therapy should be researched and customized to meet your individual needs and must be discussed thoroughly with your health care team. Keeping your physician informed of your use of complementary and alternative therapies is especially important because combining chemotherapy drugs with particular supplements may result in serious drug interactions, reactions or side effects.
Complementary nutrition therapy includes the use of herbs, vitamins, and minerals or pharmacological choices, and may also encompass dietary choices such as macrobiotics and vegetarianism or detoxifying diets or treatments.
Many hospitals and research facilities offer options in nutrition therapy:
Cancer Treatment Centers of America offers a “Nutrition Metabolic Support Department to keep you strong and nutritionally balanced so your cancer treatment is not interrupted.”
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center offers a wide variety of patient education options in the area of complementary nutrition therapy.
Duke Integrative Medicine, a division of Duke University Health System, “Providing the very best of conventional medicine, cutting-edge diagnosis and treatment, with appropriate complementary therapies.”
The Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Colorado Hospital offers “physician-managed care that emphasizes the wellness and healing of the entire person, drawing on both conventional medicine and complementary and alternative therapies” such as Chinese herbals and nutrition counseling.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the U.S. and the CAM-Cancer , a European initiative, are sources to monitor clinical trials in the area of nutritional therapy.
The Alternative Medicine Resources Homepage offers internet links and information which may direct you to nutrition therapy resources in your area.