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Breast cancer treatment and nutrition

Nothing is more scary than a diagnosis of cancer. 16,084 women and men was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016(1). Thankfully the 5 years survival rate is 90% (2008 - 2012).

The oncologist, breast surgeon and radiologists are usually the three doctors who will discuss the treatment options. Amongst these treatment options, chemotherapy is the one that has the most nutrition related side effects. These side effects may include nausea, taste changes, tiredness, developing ulcers in the mouth and vomiting.

Here are some practical tips to help healthy eating during this roller coaster ride.

1) Good source of nutritious foods

During treatment, it is important to keep try your nutrition up as much as possible. The general healthy eating principals from the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is a good starting point. Breast Caner Network Australia published a comprehensive resource on Healthy Eating and Breast Cancer. You can find the link here.

2) Small frequent meal

Eat small regular meal if your appetite is affected. Even a small portion of leftover is a good boost to your energy.

3) Medication

Take any anti-nausea medication as directed by your health care team during chemotherapy. Some medications work best if you take 15 minutes prior to eating to allow the medication to take effect.

4) Good oral care

Gentle teeth brushing, mouth rinsing and flossing is especially important during chemotherapy. Ask your oncology nurse or the chemotherapy unit for more information. The Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Centre has information here.

5) Prepare ahead.

This particular point can be emphasized strong enough. No amount of knowledge on healthy eating is useful if you are short of time and come home to an empty fridge or freezer after your chemotherapy session. A lot of people make doubles of their meals and freeze a portion. Some enlist help from their circle of support. Some uses online shopping to a good well stock kitchen.

Medical grade nutrition supplements are available in people where nutrition intake is affected and unable to meet their requirement from food alone. This may require a referral to a dietitian with experience in working with people affected by cancer.


(1) Cancer Australia statistics. Obtained on 16 February 2017 online.

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