MedWatch Today: Proper Nutrition for Cancer Patients

Med Watch Today

FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – It can be hard enough to get the nutrients and calories you need as a healthy person, but when you’re being treated for cancer, these things can be a lot harder–especially if your body no longer tolerates certain foods due to side effects of treatment. Community Cancer Institute has registered dietitians to guide patients along their journey and one patient is calling his journey a blessing.

Ray Ramirez was diagnosed with cancer and is a patient of the Community Cancer Institute. He says, “I don’t consider myself as an exception to the rule. During the last two years, I have lost too many fine people to cancer.”

Ray Ramirez had a cancerous growth removed from his mouth that took him through a variety of medical procedures such as surgeries, surface guided radiation therapy and rehabilitation. Ray started to lose a lot of weight and was referred to registered dietitian supervisor, Lauren Nowak.

“So my job here is to make sure patients are getting adequate nutrition throughout their treatment process–making sure that their weight is stable, making sure they’re getting enough to eat, good sources of food and that they’re not having too much weight loss throughout this process… if they lose too much weight they are likely to have their treatment held, their treatment stopped, their treatment outcomes may not be as good. They also will have a lot of symptoms that come up from either the chemo or the radiation and so they sometimes want us to help manage those symptoms,” said Nowak.

But, it’s a common misconception that there’s one type of daily diet routine to follow.

“There’s not one food that patients should be eating. There’s no magic food for cancer patients, unfortunately it’s not the way it works. All foods can fit into a cancer treatment diet as long as there’s a moderation of variety. So, we don’t want our patients to be eating the same foods all day every day. They find a food that works and we don’t want them sticking with that food all the time. We want them to still get a good variety because while they may be getting enough calories and protein, they’re not going to get enough of the vitamins and minerals that they’re needing from a diet that’s varied,” Nowak said.

And if you’ve heard that sugar causes cancer to grow and spread quicker…

“The truth is that this is not true. All of our cells need glucose and so we can get that glucose from a variety of foods–fruits, vegetables, pastas, breads, all of that and sugar is included in that group. And so patients automatically think they need to take the sugar out of their diet when really this is a primary source of energy for the cells in our body,” said Nowak.

For Ray, seeing Lauren and following all of her suggestions has allowed him get back to his regular routine.

“I’ve maintained that weight pretty well. Mostly, I’m very energetic. I have trouble getting up in the morning which I never used to do before, but I just consider myself a little lazy, now I’m that age now, I can stay in bed a little longer,” Ramirez said.

And even though he may stay in bed a little longer these days, he says he now holds his family a little closer.

“Just the love of my life…I tell people this because it’s important to me…that this whole thing with the cancer and everything else, is the biggest blessing in my life and a lot of people won’t look at it that way, but for me it was.”

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