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Targeting Cancer: Good nutrition is key to cancer treatment and recovery
Nutrition plays an important role in cancer care. Eating the right kids of foods, in the right amounts, and at the right times can make a difference during treatment and in recovery.
Patients at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center have access to nutrition counseling services with registered dietitian Shelly Kokkeler. Board-certified in oncology nutrition, Shelly has more than 30 years of experience working with cancer patients through various stages of their cancer journey.
Identifying nutrition problems early
Both cancer and cancer treatments can affect the way the body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients. Potential problems can be avoided or eased when Shelly has the opportunity to meet with a patient before treatment begins.
“Depending on the type of treatment, whether it be chemotherapy or radiation—and it varies on both the type of chemotherapy or what part of the body is radiated—people can develop various side effects where diet plays a role,” Shelly says.
Side effects triggered by treatment may include:
• Loss of appetite
• Inflammation and sores in the mouth
• Changes in the way food tastes
Shelly advises patients on how to add or remove certain foods from their diets to ease discomfort. She also offers tips to help with specific symptoms, like changes in taste.
“One thing that chemotherapy patients sometimes experience is a metallic taste. I suggest eating with plastic cutlery as opposed to metal utensils and that sometimes helps,” Shelly says.
Don’t underestimate proper nutrition
When you’re undergoing cancer treatment, your body needs the proper fuel, including adequate calories and protein.
“For example, during chemotherapy, a patient’s bone marrow is often affected by treatment, so blood counts tend to drop. The body is trying to repair its good cells and protein is needed to provide those building blocks. At the same time, adequate calorie intake provides the body the energy it needs.”
Because cancer and cancer treatment affect people differently, Shelly creates individual nutrition plans, based on the needs of each patient.
Once a patient finishes cancer treatment, nutrition continues to play an important role in their health and well-being. Patients often meet with Shelly after treatment to discuss dietary changes that can reduce the risk of recurrence.