Nutrition a key link in the fight against cancer, but often overlooked

I also believe that no runner or competitive athlete would endure rigorous training and competition without a solid nutritional plan. Why then do cancer patients undergo toxic treatments that are even more taxing and harmful to their bodies than running a race without a nutrition plan?

As a 20 year survivor of stage 4 uterine cancer, I can assure you that some aspects of cancer treatment and survival feel like training for a marathon, and without my changing radical diet at the start of my treatment, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.

Fortunately, I was a dietitian and knew what I had to do with my diet. Since then, I have obtained a doctorate. in Molecular Carcinogenesis and a Masters in Public Health, and I am on the faculty at Baylor University, where I conduct research on the link between cancer and diet.

Today, more than 50 percent of all cancer patients are malnourished when first diagnosed. This is easily treatable in most cases, if diagnosed early. Why is this important? Malnutrition increases the length of hospital stays and hospital readmissions, can delay needed treatment, and reduces treatment dose, efficacy, and overall survival.

Yet only a few cancer treatment centers, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, provide nutrition services to all of their cancer patients, regardless of cancer status. ‘assurance.

Currently, a study is underway at Fred Hutchinson to determine the effectiveness of malnutrition services in reducing health care costs and saving lives. Most patients do not know or understand the importance of nutrition not only in their fight against cancer, but also in preventing cancer recurrences and for their overall quality of life.

During my first treatments, like most patients, I was depressed and turned to comfort foods, which didn’t help. Luckily, with my strong background in nutritional science, I quickly turned the script around. I started following a mostly plant-based diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grains, which data shows is associated with improved survival in several cancers and recommended by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Within a few weeks, I regained my energy and could take long walks. Although many other factors could explain this, I can assure you that the diet was a very important element.

There are a large number of studies showing that a healthy diet before, during and after cancer diagnosis gives the best treatment results in terms of increased survival and decreased recurrence.

My hope for the future of cancer treatment is this: when patients are first diagnosed with cancer and start training, just like athletes, for the cancer marathon, they receive a solid nutritional plan to help them win, or at least give them a fighting chance.

K. Leigh Greathouse, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized expert in cancer biology and nutrition. She conducts federally funded research on the intersection of diet and cancer treatment response at Baylor University.

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