Over the years, nutrition  & health has gained a lot of importance. In these changing times, health and nutrition is looked at differently than what it was few years ago. A few decades ago, when our grandparents were young, there were hardly any illnesses and diseases, and they ate everything that was naturally grown and cooked. From then and now, we are again back to cooking and eating what our grandmothers ate – going back to our roots! We now know that nutrition plays an important role in fighting so many diseases. Its benefits are beyond just maintaining weight, influencing and impacting in non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancers, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases and many more

We all know that cancer prevalence has increased tremendously over the years due to a variety of factors. With newer advances in treatment options, cancer is now not looked as a ‘death sentence’, though it is still dreaded. The World Health Organization states that about 30 to 50 % of cancers are preventable. As the old saying goes – ‘prevention is better than cure’, even if diagnosed with cancer, the battle is still not lost – thanks to the evolved supportive care.

Nutrition & Health in Cancer Treatment

One cannot undermine the impact nutrition has on cancer and its outcome, the overall well-being of an individual and how it can improve the quality of life. Nutrition is a way by which food is taken in and utilized by the human body for growth and development. Consuming the right kinds of food before, during and after cancer treatment can help the person tolerate the treatment better. This is especially important as we all know, cancer treatment comes with its own set of side effects. Cancer and cancer treatments affect taste, smell, appetite and the ability to eat food or absorb nutrients from food. Therefore, malnutrition among people with cancer is very common and indirectly affects treatment outcomes. Hence, nutrition becomes one of the cornerstones in cancer management. With proper nutrition, a person can have a stronger immune function to fight other infections and recover faster.

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, all demand increased nutrient needs. Consuming nutrient dense foods and adequate hydration, with the help of a nutritionist help sail through these phases. Certain chemotherapy drugs can interfere with eating and digestion. People with cancer often complaint of loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dryness of mouth, changes in taste perception, difficulty in swallowing, diarrhoea and constipation. Although some of these are unavoidable, they can be better managed with the right food.

Apart from this, nutritional therapy also includes providing nutritional supplements and tube feeding wherever warranted. Good nutrition is important if one has cancer because both the disease and its treatment can alter the way one eats. They can also affect the way the body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients. Nutrition needs of people with cancer are varied from person to person. The requirements of a child with cancer will be completely different from that of an adult with malignancy. Hence, individualized nutrition therapy is required.

Nutrition in cancer aims to identify, prevent and treat malnutrition through nutritional counseling with or without oral nutritional supplements, as well as to address metabolic and nutritional alterations that influence patients’ recovery and survival.

Nutrition is a central factor in oncology, influencing the development of the disease, response to treatments and recovery after treatment, thus impacting the quality of life and overall well-being. Early tailored nutrition intervention has the potential to improve treatment efficacy and prognosis of this dreaded disease itself.