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Eating well and cancer

If the person you care for has cancer, it is more important than ever that they eat well. Find out why it is so important, how cancer can affect someone's diet, why people with cancer may lose weight and how you can deal with it.

  • More information can be found in the Carers UK and Nutricia Eating Well and Cancer Booklet – click here to download or order a free copy.

Why is it important for people with cancer to eat well?

If the person you care for has cancer, it is more important than ever that they eat well. Unfortunately, it is often at these times that they may not able to eat as much as they usually would, which can weaken the body further. It is important to eat enough, to make sure the body gets all the nutrients it needs.

Eating well can help a person with cancer:

  • maintain their weight
  • provide energy
  • cope with side effects from cancer treatment
  • tolerate the most beneficial dose of certain cancer treatments
  • fight infection and recover faster from surgery

Overall, this can help people to cope better with the cancer journey.

As a carer, you want to do the best for the person you look after, including ensuring they eat well.

There are some simple ways that you can help a person to deal with the eating problems caused by cancer or its treatment.


How can cancer affect someone's diet?

 Many people with cancer find it difficult to eat enough and can sometimes lose weight. There are many reasons for this; it can be as a result of the cancer itself or due to the side effects of the different treatments.


Why is the person I look after losing weight?

Cancer patients can experience weight loss for lots of reasons; it can be due to the site of cancer itself or the side effects of different cancer treatments. If you are worried the person you care for is losing weight and struggling to eat, it is important to speak to your GP or other healthcare professional.

During and after cancer treatment, some people experience unpleasant side effects that can cause eating problems. This includes temporary changes in appetite, taste or smell, which can put people off their food. In some cases, a person with cancer may lose weight unintentionally.

Side effects affecting eating and drinking can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Taste changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore mouth and throat
  • Anxiety, low mood or depression

Dealing with weight loss

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is vital for maintaining good health for us all. This includes eating foods from all the different food groups, to provide us with the nutrients we need.

However, if someone is living with cancer they may find it difficult to eat enough of certain food groups and if they are losing weight, the body will need extra energy and protein to help them prevent further weight loss.


What happens when food is not enough

Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays a key role in keeping the body strong. Living with cancer can put a strain on the body. It can be hard to get enough food at these times, which can weaken the body further.

  • More information can be found in the Carers UK and Nutricia Eating Well and Cancer Booklet – click here to download or order a free copy.
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With your help we can reach more carers with timely support and advice.

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