Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Cancer and nutrition

It is very important to maintain proper nutrition before, during and after cancer treatment. Such treatments may involve radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological immunotherapy and/or surgery. These procedures and medications can cause many individuals to lose their appetite and energy, putting them at an increased risk for malnutrition.

Your food choices when you have cancer and are undergoing treatment may be very different from what you are used to eating. The main goal is to try to keep your weight constant. In order to minimize weight changes, heal properly and maintain the energy to cope with all the new challenges treatment may bring, you should try to eat a wide variety of high-calorie and high-protein foods, including the following:

  • Milk, cream and cheese
  • Cooked eggs
  • Sauces and gravies
  • Butter, margarine and oil

Sometimes, the recommendations given to you detailing what you should eat during your treatment will seem like the opposite of what you have always heard a healthy diet should include. You may be encouraged to follow a high-calorie, high-protein diet, especially if you are feeling weak or are underweight. It can be a challenge to get enough nutrients because you may not feel well or may not feel like eating. Proper attention to nutrition can assist in an easier recovery.