Cancer: Proper Nutrition

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Guest:  Michael Stafford – Dietetic Services

Host:  Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry

Dr. Linda Austin:  I’m Dr. Linda Austin.  I’m interviewing Michael Stafford who is a registered dietician here, at the Medical University of South Carolina, with a specialization in the dietary needs of patients with cancer.  Michael, what are some of the issues that cancer patients face with regard to nutrition and diet?

Michael Stafford:  Well, when it comes to diet, especially with chemotherapy treatment or radiation treatment, there are some side effects that can occur with the different types of treatment, whether it be loss of appetite or nausea, taste alterations, decrease in weight, things like that.  

Dr. Linda Austin:  You hear people joke about, even in that situation, the fact that most of us spend much of our lives trying to control our weight, obviously cancer is a situation where you may have unintended weight loss.  How do you counsel patients about the importance of keeping their weight stable?  Or, what if they start off overweight?  What recommendations do you give?

Michael Stafford:  It depends on what you consider to be overweight.  If you want to go into BMI (Body Mass Index), things like that, if it’s a BMI of 25-30, that’s what we consider clinically overweight.  Anything over 30 would be considered obese.  Typically during the cancer treatment, we’re not looking to lose substantial amounts of weight.  We try to maintain weight during treatment.  With some chemotherapy or radiation protocols, you will see some weight gain due to various things, whether a patient is on steroids, or on high fluid intake, which can increase weight.  But, typically, in an inpatient setting, we try to maintain weight while they’re getting treatment.  If it’s after treatment and the patient would like to lose weight, then we would want to do it in small increments, not large amounts of weight loss at one time.  Maintaining your protein stores, your vitamin/mineral stores, things like that, are very important during the treatment.

Dr. Linda Austin:  So, what are some typical things that patients who have gone through chemotherapy, or are going through chemotherapy, should think about from a nutritional point of view?  Are there any special foods you recommend patients eat?

Michael Stafford:  It kind of depends on the different side effects.  We recommend different things, depending on the patient.

Dr. Linda Austin:  What are some specific scenarios that you encounter, and what are some of the tips that you suggest to patients?


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