Diet and Nutrition for Mesothelioma Patients
Diet and nutrition are vital to anyone’s health, but all the moreso for people suffering from mesothelioma and other forms of cancer. Good nutrition leads to increased levels of energy, which makes it easier to retain physical strength during mesothelioma treatment. Good nutrition can also help relieve the symptoms of mesothelioma and mesothelioma treatments. On the flip side, a lack of nutrients (malnutrition) can lead to fatigue and make it harder to fight off infection and tolerate cancer treatments.
The Effects of Malnutrition
When it comes to maintaining strength and fighting off infection, mesothelioma patients face an uphill battle. Mesothelioma and the treatments used to combat it both can cause a loss of appetite, or anorexia. Anorexia is the number one cause of malnutrition among cancer patients.
The effects of anorexia and the disease itself often lead to a condition known as cachexia. Also known as wasting syndrome and catabolic wasting, this devastating condition breaks down fat, muscle and other bodily tissues, no matter how many nutrients are consumed. Once this occurs it is very difficult for the patient to maintain weight and overall health. Cachexia normally takes effect in the latter stages of mesothelioma.
Because the effects of anorexia and cachexia are so detrimental, the key is to prevent them from taking hold, or at the very least prolong their onset. This is where diet and nutrition come in.
Doctors often advise cancer patients to follow a diet rich in fat and calories. While normally this might be unhealthy, it can help cancer patients avoid malnutrition and maintain energy, both of which are crucial to their happiness and long-term prognosis. Mesothelioma patients also benefit from foods that contain:
By working closely with oncologists, mesothelioma patients can develop a diet that promotes quicker healing, lowers risk of infection, rebuilds bodily tissues and helps maintain proper weight and nutrient stores. Nutrition therapy can also increase the effectiveness of certain cancer treatments and help patients withstand higher doses.
Depending on the stage of the disease, the patient’s condition and other factors, nutrition therapy may simply consist of a specific dietary plan or be administered through a feeding tube. In some cases, it may be necessary to administer the treatment through a vein. This is also known as intravenous hyperalimentation or total parenteral nutrition (TPN).
To assist in these efforts, oncologists sometimes advise cancer patients to seek the services of a registered dietician.
Please note that many alternative therapies are not endorsed by oncologists and cancer organizations, and may even be harmful. This includes fasting, Gerson Therapy and Metabolic Therapy.
Supplements are another cause for concern among oncologists. Because manufacturers are not required to obtain FDA approval before marketing their dietary supplements, many products of questionable efficacy can be found on the shelves of certain markets, and on the Internet. Some of these products have even been known to interfere with cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. As a result, it is very important to avoid taking supplements without the knowledge of a doctor.
If you currently are taking or considering taking any supplements, contact your doctor to verify that they are safe. More importantly, if you have experienced symptoms after taking a drug or supplement, notify your doctor immediately.
For more information, be sure to speak with your oncologist.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Department of Veterans Affairs
Arizona Cancer Center (University of Arizona Health Sciences Center)
American Dietetic Association
[Page updated October 2008]