Malnutrition causes 20% of cancer deaths; what care to take? – 06/12/2022

Cancer patients may undergo dietary changes that, among many consequences, alter or reduce appetite. One of the main fears is malnutrition, responsible for 20% of the deaths of people with the disease, indicated a survey published in an article in European Journal of Medical Oncology.

According to Adriana Carrieri, a nutritionist specializing in cancer, access to quality nutritional treatment is one of the main barriers, and patients generally lack in-depth guidance. The absence of a support network can also affect the correct diet, in addition to the symptoms of the disease itself and the side effects of the treatment.

“We say that cancer is an individualized disease, so regardless of the location of the tumor, it deserves preventive attention so as not to let the patient enter a stage of severe malnutrition and only then start working on food,” said Carrieri, a researcher at the Faculty of Medicine. Albert Einstein in New York (USA), in an interview with Live well during the Ganepão congress, held in São Paulo last week.

Gastrointestinal tumors, such as stomach and esophagus, neck and head tumors can pose more difficulties to patients’ nutrition, often requiring the use of supplements and probes.

In cases of malnutrition, low immunity and this favors serious outcomes in case of infections, for example. “Death often occurs not from cancer, but from malnutrition that weakened this patient. It is a very serious issue, which leads to these complications”, explains Carrieri.

Experts argue that the nutritional assessment of patients should be performed periodically as an alternative to identify warning signs. People should also be encouraged, when possible, to engage in physical exercise to improve strength and muscle mass.

See nutrition tips for people undergoing cancer treatment

Those undergoing cancer treatment must have a healthy and balanced diet with foods in natura, such as fruits and vegetables, always very well sanitized. Therapeutic modalities against cancer aim to cure and relieve symptoms, but they can cause side effects that vary in intensity and duration.

Food should be adapted to the nutritional status of the person with the disease and as symptoms appear during treatment.

“In terms of quantities, cancer patients have specific metabolic demands, with increased caloric and protein needs. This can be a great challenge, since cancer treatment, in its most diverse modalities, causes toxicities that directly impact food consumption” , says* Janainna Mazelli, oncology nutritionist at the Sírio-Libanês hospital.

nausea and vomiting

Ginger can help - the_burtons/Getty Images - the_burtons/Getty Images

ginger can help

Image: the_burtons/Getty Images

To relieve the symptoms of nausea and vomiting, the consumption of easily digestible foods is indicated. It is important to avoid fried foods, fats and condiments, in addition to having small meals during the day.

Another recommendation is not to lie down right after eating. For nausea, a good tip is to consume ginger, which can be added to juices, coconut water or teas. In case of vomiting, experts also recommend increasing water intake in a fractional way.

intestinal changes

Types of Oats - iStock - iStock

Oatmeal is an ally in case of constipation

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It is quite common for people undergoing cancer treatment to experience diarrhea or constipation. For both cases it is essential to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration or improve stool consistency.

Diarrhea sufferers should avoid fatty and spicy preparations, milk and dairy products that contain lactose, sugar and excess laxative foods, such as high-fiber vegetables, whole grains, papaya, plums and avocados.

For constipation, the ideal is to increase the consumption of oats, flaxseed, vegetables and fruits such as papaya, orange with pomace, plum, mango and avocado. Another important tip is to perform physical activity, if there is no contraindication.

loss of appetite

Vitamins can help people who have loss of appetite - iStock - iStock

Vitamin can help people who have loss of appetite

Image: iStock

Not having the urge to eat can often occur, but this attitude is quite risky, as it leads to malnutrition and compromises treatment.

Those who have difficulty consuming solid foods can ingest more liquids such as vitamin, juice, ice cream, yogurt and soups. It is worth trying to eat in small amounts, but more times a day. Also, always eat foods that make you want at that moment. Adding olive oil, avocado and nuts in everyday preparations helps to increase the amount of calories.

In some cases, when there is excess weight loss or malnutrition, specialists may include oral supplementation to complement the diet with more nutrients.


mashed potatoes - iStock - iStock

Puree consistency makes feeding more comfortable

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It is quite common for anyone facing cancer to have canker sores or mouth sores. This can get in the way of eating, as eating in these cases causes pain or discomfort. Therefore, it is important to consume soft and pasty foods, such as purees, and at a warm temperature.

It is not interesting to eat very cold or hot foods and also avoid acidic, spicy and oral mucosa irritants, such as spices and others full of sodium.

Dry mouth

agribusiness fruits - Press Release/Abrafrutas - Press Release/Abrafrutas

Fruits Stimulate Salivation

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Having the symptom of dry mouth is also quite common. Staying hydrated and consuming foods that increase salivation are helpful strategies to lessen this discomfort. Therefore, it is recommended to increase the consumption of fruits, fresh vegetables, fruit juices and ice cream. A good tip is to drink water with lemon drops.

In some cases, saliva stimulant supplementation may be used. Drinking liquids during meals also favors chewing and swallowing.


Dark green leaves are a healthy alternative - iStock - iStock

Dark leafy greens are a healthy alternative

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Some people with cancer develop anemia from reduced food intake or from changes in the absorptive functions of the intestine. There are also cases of people with tumors that cause blood loss or that affect the bone marrow, which interferes with its ability to produce red blood cells.

Therefore, it is important to increase the consumption of foods rich in iron, such as dark leafy greens and animal proteins such as red meat, along with foods rich in vitamin C, to favor the absorption of iron. It is necessary a strict follow-up in the exams and start supplementation, if necessary.

Changes in smell and taste

Spices Help Enhance Flavor - iStock - iStock

Spices help to enhance the flavor

Image: iStock

It is common for people undergoing chemotherapy to experience a decrease in taste or smell. That way, the food becomes less interesting or tastes bitter. As each person is affected individually, the ideal is to find ways to make food more attractive with seasonings, herbs and spices to enhance the taste.

hydration up to date

Don't forget to stay hydrated - iStock - iStock

Don’t forget about hydration

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Liquids such as water and natural juices are essential for the functioning of the body, as they help digestion, transport nutrients and excretion, in addition to assisting in kidney function. Staying hydrated is of paramount importance so that the medications used do not overload the kidneys and thus have less toxic effect on the body.

Attention to products

Buy good quality products - Getty Images/iStockphoto - Getty Images/iStockphoto

Buy good quality products

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It is necessary to pay attention to the quality and hygiene of the food consumed, especially outside the home. Anyone undergoing cancer treatment needs to give preference to food that is always well cooked, properly packaged, with a quality seal, within the expiration date and in places where hygiene standards are strictly followed.

Specialists emphasize that it is important to avoid processed foods, as they are rich in preservatives. The consumption of alcoholic beverages, ultra-processed, fried and extremely sugary foods should also be avoided.

*with information from a report published on 11/30/20

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She's our PC girl, so anything is up to her. She is also responsible for the videos of Play Crazy Game, as well as giving a leg in the news.

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