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Healthy Eating Promotes Strength During Chemotherapy

Culinary expert, restauranteur and cancer survivor Biba Caggiano is leading a new educational program -- Strength for Living -- focused on the important role nutrition can play for cancer patients.

Biba will visit cancer clinics throughout the country, beginning in June. She will share her experience with cancer, offer important nutritional tips and demonstrate some of her favorite recipes, designed to meet the unique needs of patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. The program, sponsored by Ortho Biotech Products, L.P., is designed to help cancer patients get back to enjoying the activities of everyday life.

Side effects of chemotherapy can make it difficult for cancer patients to follow life's most basic routines. Nausea, loss of appetite and altered ability to taste can make getting proper nutrition a daily challenge. But other side effects pose challenges, as well.

Anemia affects up to two-thirds of all chemotherapy patients, leaving them feeling tired, weak or dizzy. Many patients don't mention these symptoms of fatigue to their doctors because they expect to be tired while undergoing chemotherapy and are unaware that treatments are available.

Nutrition is a key element in helping patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment feel better, both physically and mentally.

A new survey of 250 cancer patients conducted by a major cancer service organization in New York City found that nearly two-thirds or 65.6 percent of patients undergoing chemotherapy believed that proper nutrition was an important source of strength in coping with cancer and cancer treatments.

"Patients undergoing chemotherapy often face challenges getting proper nutrition due to the loss of appetite and taste, and development of mouth sores," explained Biba's husband, Vincent Caggiano, M.D., F.A.C.P., medical oncologist, Sutter Cancer Center, Sacramento, CA.

For more information about Strength for Living, along with Biba's recipes, or to gain access to resources for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their caregivers, please visit http://www.cancer.com.

Tips on Nutrition - (Note - Individual treatment results may vary.)

Following are nutritional tips addressing common side effects experienced by patients undergoing cancer treatment.

For those prone to nausea or vomiting:

  • Sip apple juice, grape juice or cool, lightly carbonated, caffeine-free beverages.
  • Eat five or six little meals throughout the day, making sure to eat slowly and chew your food well.
  • Stay away from sweet, spicy, fatty, fried or strong-smelling foods.
  • Relax and stay seated for an hour after meals to allow foods to settle.
  • Avoid negative association with favorite foods by not eating them immediately following treatment.
For those who develop throat and mouth sores:
  • Eat soft foods such as milkshakes, bananas, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs and yogurt.
  • Avoid acidic, spicy or salty foods, and rough foods such as popcorn, toast and raw vegetables.
For those whose taste sensations change:
  • Marinate meats and cook with herbs to enhance flavors.
  • Add sauces to dishes -- this will also make food easier to chew.
  • Rinse your mouth with water prior to meals.
For those who experience loss of appetite:
  • Eat in pleasant settings, with friends or in front of the TV as a distraction.
  • Dress up food with garnishes or by serving it on favorite dishes.
  • Have snacks handy in case hunger develops between meals.
  • Arrange a schedule for your meals and snacks -- and keep to it even when not hungry.
As always, side effects from treatments and approaches to nutrition should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

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