By Emsie Martin
The after-effects of cancer treatment can lead to bad eating and drinking habits. Cancer Survivors Day is celebrated on 2 June and CANSA gives a few hints.
Gerda Strauss, CANSA’s head of service delivery, explains that it is very important to support patients. “We are aware of the fact that the side-effects and the handling of the treatment of cancer is particularly difficult for cancer survivors (patients).
The side-effects of cancer treatment can lead to bad eating and drinking habits. Apart from the challenge to follow an adequate and nutritious diet, there is also the additional psychosocial effect that is important. So, for instance, cancer survivors may – depending on the side-effects they are experiencing – prefer not to eat their meals in the company of others. Cancer patients may also be too scared or unwilling to eat due to the side-effect they may experience.”
Cancer treatment kills cancer cells, but unfortunately healthy cells may also be damaged in the process. This causes various side-effects that may differ from person to person. Side-effects of cancer treatment such as mouth sores, a sore throat, a dry mouth and/or the deterioration of the patient’s teeth and gums can change the taste and smell of food. It could also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation.
As a result of this the cancer patient may avoid meals or have problems to get enough food, nutrients or fluids. This, in its turn, can lead to a further negative effect on the person’s health.
Megan Pentz-Kluyts, CANSA’s advisory and registered dietician, says: “It is important for cancer survivors undergoing treatment to eat a variety of foods to enable their bodies to get sufficient nutrients to fight cancer.
Good nutrition leads to more strength and energy and decreases the risk of infection. It also helps the patient to maintain a healthy and suitable body weight. Another complication is that the treatment of cancer could affect the way in which in which the body handles food. The body needs adequate and healthy nutrients during and after treatment. For this reason CANSA encourages patients to consult a registered dietician if they experience any problems regarding their diet.”
Further hints on the handling of constipation, nausea, diarrhoea and loss of appetite are also available. CANSA also encourages cancer patients to obtain the advice and guidance of professional health practitioners for individual advice, help and guidance.
Get support here
Patients, caregivers and loved ones who need advice and support can contact their nearest CANSA Care Centre or the CANSA website for service, advice and information. For more details, visit https://cansa.org.za/cansa-care-centres-contact-details/.
According to Gerda Strauss, CANSA’s head of service delivery, CANSA offers support through its Facebook support groups, CANSA Survivors – Champions of Hope and CANSA Caring for theCaregivers, as well as the Help Desk: 0800 22 66 22
(Mon to Fri from 08h00 to 16h30) and WhatsApp: 072 197 9305 (English and Afrikaans enquiries).
Other services include a 20-week email series called the iSurvivor-programme, which offers support and guidance.