Nutrition During Radiation Therapy Treatment: What Patients Should Know
Many cancer patients lose weight unexpectedly during radiation therapy because they struggle with side effects caused from treatment. Maintaining proper nutrition during radiation therapy can increase your chances of successful treatment and improve your quality of life during and after treatment.
We spoke with senior clinical dietician Haley Deas to answer common nutrition questions asked by patients facing radiation therapy. Heres what she had to share.
How important is protein during radiation therapy?
Getting the right amount of protein is very important during radiation treatment. Each meal or snack should have some source of protein. This will help spare lean muscle mass while repairing damage from radiation.
Some good protein-rich foods to try are:
If youre having trouble eating solid foods, try meal replacement drinks to make sure you get enough protein.
How can I stay hydrated during radiation therapy?
Staying hydrated makes side effects less severe and lowers your chances of missing or delaying cancer treatments. Its important to avoid dehydration during treatment to protect your organs from long-term damage. Our goal is for patients to drink enough liquids to allow for normal body functions.
All non-alcoholic beverages count toward keeping you hydrated. If you dont enjoy drinking water, try flavored waters or waters infused with fruit or vegetables to improve the taste. The average radiation therapy patient needs 8 to 12 cups of water per day.
How Are Dietary Supplements Regulated
Many people take vitamins and supplements without a problem. But it is always important to talk to your health care team if you are taking or thinking about taking a supplement. Supplements carry risks and some have strong effects.
Unlike medication, the manufacturer and supplier of a dietary supplement are solely responsible for the ingredients, dose, and preparation of their product. These factors determine the safety and efficacy of the product. Because there is no regulation or oversight, these products may contain harmful ingredients, excess amounts of some ingredients, or less of an ingredient than they state on the label.
Manufacturers can also make claims about what their products do on labels. The FDA does not require proof that these claims are truthful. After a dietary or herbal product is on the market, the FDA can only claim it is unsafe after consumers report problems with it. The FDA offers a portal for reporting such problems on its website. The most reliable source for whether a specific product is safe or effective for you is your doctor. Just because a product is labeled as “natural” does not mean it is harmless, safe, or okay to take during or after cancer treatment. Your doctor can help you determine whether a supplement is safe to take, particularly with your individual cancer treatment and during recovery.
Supplements For Cancer: Antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances found in abundance in fruits and vegetables â and in lesser amounts in nuts, grains, and meat. These phytochemicals fight certain oxygen molecules in your body known as free radicals, which can damage DNA and contribute to the development and proliferation of cancerous cells.
The use of antioxidants for cancer prevention and treatment is a controversial and confusing topic. Although experts once believed that megadoses of certain antioxidants, including vitamins A and E, might be beneficial, clinical studies have raised questions about the safety of this practice. Studies have shown that high doses of certain antioxidants can increase cancer occurrence in some populations. For instance, smokers who take high doses of beta carotene are at increased risk for lung cancer.
Some experts worry that the use of antioxidants during radiation therapy and chemotherapy might serve to protect the very cancer cells that are being targeted. A 2008 study in Cancer Research showed that vitamin C supplements blunted the effectiveness of chemotherapy by 30% to 70%.
In the meantime, thereâs no doubt that a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, has numerous health benefits.
Be sure to talk with your cancer treatment team before taking antioxidant supplements when you have cancer.
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Vitamin D Could Help Mitigate Chemotherapy Side Effects
18 June 2020
As many cancer patients will confirm, the chemotherapy prescribed to kill the disease is often more debilitating than the cancer itself, with a range of horrendous side effects.
Gastrointestinal mucositis, a painful inflammation and ulceration of the digestive tract, is one adverse outcome of chemotherapy that has plagued cancer sufferers for years, and for which no effective treatment currently exists.
But this bleak outlook may be about to change, according to University of South Australia researchers who say Vitamin D could potentially mitigate inflamed intestinal tracts and provide relief to cancer patients.
A new study undertaken by Dr Andrea Stringer, Associate Professor Paul Anderson and PhD student Cyan Sylvester highlights the limited options for easing the gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy, singling out Vitamin D and probiotics as the most promising.
We already know that Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium, but new findings suggest it may also play an important role in chemotherapy-induced intestinal mucositis, says Sylvester, the lead author of a recent paper reviewing new therapeutic strategies for combatting gastrointestinal toxicity.
The severity and progression of various gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer, is associated with Vitamin D deficiency, she says. It appears that Vitamin D helps suppress inflammation and enhances the function of T-cells which boosts immunity.
Interacting With People Who Have Infections
Some chemotherapy treatments can increase the risk of infection.
There will be points during chemotherapy treatment cycles where a persons number of white blood cells is lower than usual. These cells are responsible for fighting infections.
During these times, it is important that a person minimizes their risk of infection. This includes avoiding contact with people that may have active infections.
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Supplements For Cancer: Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most studied supplements for cancer prevention and treatment right now.
âVitamin D is of interest not so much because of results of clinical trials, but because of our evolving understanding of the key role it plays in cell and the fact that so many people are really deficient in vitamin D,â says Tim Byers, MD, deputy director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
Epidemiological studies have found that people with cancer often have lower circulating levels of vitamin D in their blood. However, the research is mixed.
In a study presented at the 2008 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, researchers found that vitamin D deficiency was more common among women diagnosed with breast cancer. The study also found that vitamin D deficiency may raise the risk of breast cancer spreading, and raise the risk of death from breast cancer.
But in a large National Cancer Institute study, researchers found no association between blood levels of vitamin D and cancer death, with the possible exception of colorectal cancer. People with high levels of vitamin D were 72% less likely than those with low levels to die of colorectal cancer.
Also, some studies have found that vitamin D may protect against prostate cancer, while other studies have found that it doesnât help.
There continues to be a flurry of research looking at vitamin Dâs role in cancer. More research is needed to truly understand the relationship.
Why Is Supplement Use During Cancer Treatment Particularly Of Antioxidants A Problem
Many studies have indicated that taking antioxidant supplements during chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment was associated with a lower breast cancer survival rate and may hasten the spread of lung cancer, as well as some other cancers. One study observed that taking vitamin C with Tamoxifen decreased its effectiveness.
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Coping With Treatment Side Effects When You Have Cancer
Keep in mind, there are hundreds of chemotherapy drugs. The vitamins and supplements that may help you will depend on your specific treatment.
To optimize your health and reduce the risk of dangerous interactions, donât take supplements for side effects without talking with your cancer treatment team. Your cancer doctors can help you develop a comprehensive treatment.
Supplements For Cancer: L
â can be used to treat a lot of different cancer types â lung cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer,â Birdsall tells WebMD. âThe amino acid l-glutamine has been shown in numerous studies to be helpful at preventing or treating peripheral neuropathy â pain, numbness, and tingling â associated with .â
L-glutamine, taken orally, has also been shown in one study to reduce the peripheral neuropathy associated with oxaliplatin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat colorectal cancer.
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How To Use A Supplement Safely
It is possible to use some dietary and herbal supplements safely. In some places, complementary therapies are common along with cancer treatment. For example, traditional Chinese medicine often incorporates herbal therapies as a regular part of cancer treatment.
The most important thing is to do your research and talk to your doctor. Learn more about how to evaluate health information online. Here are some suggestions for what to know before you take any supplements:
Buy only single-ingredient products approved by your doctor. Some products contain other unlabeled herbs, pesticides, prescription drugs, heavy metals, or other substances.
Make sure the bottle clearly shows the dosage.
Look for a certification mark or seal from an independent, third-party organization. These include:
Check the label to see if researchers have tested the product. Contact the manufacturer for the test results. Talk with your doctor about anything that is not clear.
Be skeptical of claims on labels, particularly those that say the product will cure cancer. No single remedy or treatment can successfully treat all cancers. And no dietary or other supplement product can cure cancer.
Should You Use Dietary Supplements During Cancer Treatment
From vitamin A to calcium to folate to zinc, there are dozens of types of supplements. And if youre undergoing cancer treatment, you may be wondering if supplements are right for you.
Although there can be benefits to taking supplements, there are also risks. We spoke with Gabriel Lopez, M.D., medical director of MD Andersons Integrative Medicine Center, to better understand these products and what cancer patients should know.
Heres what he shared.
What are supplements? And can you tell us about the different types of supplements?
Supplements are a liquid or pill concentrate of vitamins, herbs, minerals or specific nutrients that can be consumed to support your health.
Multivitamin supplements are a combination of vitamins, minerals and other ingredients taken in pill form. Theyre meant to increase nutrients in your diet.
Herbal supplements, which are made from plants, are typically used for their medicinal or therapeutic properties. They often come in the form of tea, fresh or dried plants, liquid extracts or powders.
When may a cancer patient need supplements?
If you follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet, your doctor may prescribe a supplement since a vitamin B12 deficiency is a concern.
What are the risks of taking supplements?
If youre undergoing surgery, its also important to avoid supplements that may increase bleeding risk, such as garlic extract, ginseng extract, bilberry extract and fish oil.
What are some common misconceptions about supplements?
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Supplements For Cancer: Garlic
Many studies have found that people who eat a lot of garlic are less likely to develop certain common cancers.
That garlic research has led scientists to wonder whether garlic may have cancer-treating properties as well as cancer-prevention capabilities. Although studies are not yet conclusive, there is some evidence that garlic may be useful for cancer in conjunction with medical treatments.
For starters, garlic may be beneficial for cancer patients owing to its immune-boosting abilities, which vary depending on how the garlic has been processed. Additionally, certain substances found in garlic have been shown to suppress growth and fight certain cancerous cells in the lab, including forms of breast and lung cancer.
Early studies have shown that eating garlic can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer and stomach cancer. The same benefit was not found with garlic supplements. However, preliminary prostate cancer research on men in China has shown that both eating garlic and garlic supplements may decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
First Talk To Your Doctor
Before you take any vitamin, mineral, or herbal supplement, talk to your doctor. Research is limited on supplements and studies show mixed results on the safety of supplements and breast cancer.
Any supplements after breast cancer treatment should be regulated by your oncologists, says Anita Johnson, MD, breast cancer program director at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta. Your medical team knows your symptoms and your full medical history and can tell you what may be best for you.
Summary Of The Evidence For Cancer Therapy Interactions With Foods And Dietary Supplements
To assist readers in evaluating the results of human studies of integrative, alternative, and complementary therapies for cancer, the strength of the evidence associated with each type of treatment is provided wheneverpossible. To qualify for a level of evidence analysis, a study must:
- Report on a therapeuticoutcome or outcomes, such as tumorresponse, improvement in survival, or measured improvement in quality of life.
- Describe clinical findings in sufficient detail that a meaningful evaluation can be made.
Separate levels of evidence scores are assigned to qualifying human studies on the basis of statistical strength of the study design and scientific strength of the treatment outcomes measured. The resulting two scores are then combined to produce an overall score. For an explanation of the scores and additional information about levels of evidence analysis, see Levels of Evidence for Human Studies of Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies.
Fill Up On Avocado To Nourish Your Skin In The Winter
Cold weather can take a toll on your skin, causing dryness, flaking, or itchiness, and in some cases, it may worsen eczema and other skin disorders, warns Intermountain Healthcare. Creams and serums may help to some extent, but what you eat can make all the difference. Packed with healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, avocado can help you fight dry skin in the winter and restore your glow. “Healthy fats are essential for keeping your face and hands looking healthy and preventing them from drying out in the cold winter months,” said cosmetic physician Rekha Tailor in an interview with .
Avocado consumption can also increase skin elasticity and firmness in as little as eight weeks, according to clinical research presented in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. The monounsaturated fats, polyphenols, and other nutrients in this fruit may slow down aging and improve skin appearance, explain the study authors. Moreover, avocado is chock-full of vitamin C, a nutrient that promotes collagen synthesis. This compound also has antioxidant effects, protecting your skin from ultraviolet radiation, suggests a 2017 review featured in the journal Nutrients.
Vitamin E, another key nutrient in avocados, fights inflammation and guards your skin against oxidative damage. At the same time, it speeds up wound healing and may reduce the formation of wrinkles. This exotic fruit also contains vitamin A, a fat-soluble nutrient that helps prevent collagen breakdown and dry, itchy skin.
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Higher Recurrence And Death
For the current study, Ambrosone and collegues used data from the Diet, Exercise, Lifestyle and Cancer Prognosis study, a phase 3 trial led by SWOG that randomly assigned breast cancer patients to receive various treatment regimens containing doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and paclitaxel. Participants were questioned about their use of supplements at two time points upon randomization and when treatment was completed.
A total of 1134 patients completed both questionnaires. Within this group, there were 251 recurrences and 181 deaths. Those who experienced disease recurrence or died were more likely to be older, to be postmenopausal, and to have a higher body mass index . They were also more likely to self-report as black and to have poor prognosis factors .
The authors comment that in comparison with previous reports in the literature, in this study, the use of supplements among patients was low and tended to decline during treatment. Only 17.5% of patients used any antioxidant during treatment , and 44% took multivitamins.
Overall, patients who used any antioxidant both before and during treatment were at an increased risk for disease recurrence and, to a lesser degree, death . No relationships were observed for use of antioxidants only before beginning treatment or only during chemotherapy.
For nonantioxidant supplements, there was no association between multivitamin and vitamin D use at any time point and outcomes.
Antioxidant Use During Chemo Risky
Breast cancer patients who take the dietary supplements known as antioxidants, as well as iron, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, during chemotherapy may be at increased risk of disease recurrence and death, according to new study results appearing in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Led by researchers at the SWOG Cancer Research Network, a cancer clinical trials network funded by the National Cancer Institute through the National Institutes of Health, the study confirms previous medical guidance advising cautious use of any supplements, other than a multivitamin, for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
A small but growing body of research in the last 20 years shows that, despite their cancer-fighting reputation, antioxidants such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, and selenium can actually increase risk of some cancers, cause some cancers to return after treatment, or interfere with the effects of chemotherapy. As part of the nations oldest and largest publicly-funded cancer research network, SWOG has conducted some of this work. Its landmark Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial showed that vitamin E supplementation increases the risk of prostate cancer in healthy men.
In the end, 1,134 patients completed both surveys, and of these, 18 percent used at least one antioxidant daily, while 44 percent took multivitamins. Heres what researchers found:
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