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YUA Health Message: Nutrition and Cancer Care

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In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, with the most common cancers being breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. The good news is more and more patients are surviving cancer. For example, in 2016, there were an estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S.

Good nutrition is key, both during and after cancer treatment. Nutrition is the process by which food is taken in and used by the body for growth, to keep the body healthy and to replace tissues. A healthy diet involves eating and drinking enough foods and liquids that have the nutrients your body needs. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat and water.

While cancer treatments can take a toll on your body, eating the right foods can help you feel better and rally faster. Eating well can also help you tolerate treatment-related side effects and add to your strength and energy.

Special Considerations for Prostate, Kidney, and Bladder Cancers

“To date, there hasn’t been good evidence to show that a specific diet or certain foods will help prostate cancer patients heal more quickly during cancer treatment,” says J. Kellogg Parsons, MD, a board-certified urologist at UC San Diego Health’s Moores Cancer Center who specializes in diagnosing and treating prostate cancer.

There is also limited evidence about any unique eating patterns needed for kidney or bladder cancer patients. We do know, however, that one of the best things you can is to quit smoking during treatment. Smoking has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of many cancer treatments.

“It’s still a good idea to follow a general healthy eating plan during treatment,” says Parsons. That’s because when cancer patients eat well, they often feel stronger. And this can help them better deal with the physical and emotional stresses related to cancer treatment.

Dr. Parsons also notes that what’s generally good for the heart is also generally good for cancer. This includes eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And watching your fat, sugar and salt intake.