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Nutrition therapy for cancer

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Cancer is the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. It is caused by a variety of identified and unidentified factors. The most common factor for cancer is smoking. Other risk factors include diet, alcohol, physical activity, infections, hormonal factors and radiation. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and according to the International Cancer Control Partnership (ICCP) portal, the total number of cancer cases reported in 2018 was 23530 while 14013 people were dead by cancer in 2018 due to Late-stage symptom presentation and lack of appropriate disease diagnosis and treatments. 


What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is a process in which food is taken in and used by the body for growth; to keep the body healthy, and to replace tissue. Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and remain stronger. A healthy diet includes eating and drinking adequate amounts of foods and liquids which contain essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. In this regard the source person providing information for this article is Madusha Wijesinghe, Dietician/Nutritionist SLMC 23&60 BSc (Specialized in applied nutrition) MSc Food & Nutrition and serving at Durdans Hospital. 


Nutrition and disease management?
Nutrition therapy is used to help cancer patients to maintain a healthy body weight or BMI Value, strength, keep body tissue healthy, and decrease side effects both during and after 
the treatment.


Importance of nutrition therapy
Cancer and cancer treatments may affect taste, smell, appetite, and the ability to eat enough food or absorb the nutrients from food. As a result most cancer patients who received cancer treatment will have experienced malnutrition due to lack of essential nutrients. Moreover, alcohol consumption and obesity may increase the risk of malnutrition and eventually, malnutrition will be cause for the patient’s weakness, tiredness and the inability to fight infection or conclude cancer treatment. Furthermore, malnutrition may worsen if the cancer grows or spreads.

Therefore, cancer patients need to have a balanced diet since the consumption of the right quantity of protein and calories are the key factor for healing, fighting infection and having enough energy.


Factors for malnutrition risk

Anorexia is the loss of appetite or desire to eat. It may occur early in the disease or later if the cancer grows or spreads. Some patients already have anorexia when they are diagnosed with cancer. Most patients who have advanced cancer will have anorexia. Anorexia is the most common cause of malnutrition in cancer patients.
Cachexia is a condition marked by weakness, weight loss and fat and muscle loss. It is common in patients with tumors that affect eating and digestion. 

Some tumors change the way of how certain nutrients are used by human body since the body uses some nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fat may be affected by tumors in stomach, intestines, head and neck. Therefore, if a patient may consume enough food, however the body may not be able to absorb all the nutrients from the food.

In addition to above dietary factors a sedentary lifestyle aggravates the cancer risk.

According to guidelines for cancer management, dietary management during cancer is different according to where the cancer is, stage of the disease, the method of the treatment and side effects of the treatments. 

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