Cancer treatments such radiation, chemotherapy and other tests can be hard on one’s body at any age, but in particular for the older population.

Sometimes older patients that are too frail or have other medical problems may be deemed not suitable to receive anticancer treatments in the first place.

Estimated number of new cancer cases diagnosed in 2016

  • In Australia there are estimated 130,470 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia this year, with that number set to rise to 150,000 by 2020.
  • By the age of 85 years, 1 in 3 Australian women and 1 in 2 Australian men and will be diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer is an illness that affects many seniors, read on for nutrition tips for seniors recovering from cancer.

A frequently asked question is what type of food should I eat now I have cancer? Whilst it is always important to run any dietary changes by your doctor, we do know that eating a healthy diet can help to create an optimal environment for recovery in the body during and post treatment. Which will hopefully make you feel better too.

What should I be eating?

Whilst there is no diet or eating plan proven to cure cancer, there are some suggestions to ensure you get enough nutrients and calories whilst going through treatment. Sometimes however despite your best efforts you may not feel like eating some foods because the cancer and the treatment can make you feel very unwell. Depending on your symptoms there are some strategies to try that can manage and control these effects, so it’s best to raise it with your doctor, nurse or dietitian for some specific guidance for your.

During treatment you will find that there is plenty of time spent getting to and and waiting around for appointments, making it easy enough to skip meals unintentionally. So if you can try to have some quick nourishing snacks on hand so that you don’t put yourself at risk of losing weight or malnutrition.

For many older people they often find they need to either maintain or gain weight during cancer treatments so if this applies to you, then you will need to consume more energy (kilojoules) without necessarily having to eat more than normal. Some suggested ways to do this is to add extra fats, protein and sugar to your basic foods at mealtimes, such as:

  • Use full cream milk instead of low fat, or other dairy products.
  • Add milk, cream or butter to sauces, desserts, mashed vegetables, egg dishes and soups.
  • Add cheese to sauces, soup, vegetables, casseroles, salads and sandwiches.
  • Fry or roast chicken or meat in oil or butter.
  • Fruit buns, scones, muffins with butter and for extra energy add honey or jam.
  • You can also use avocado, hummus.
  • Try a smoothie or milkshake.

If you are not sure what your weight is, at your next appointment check with your healthcare team. Either the doctor, nurse or dietitian will be able to provide you with guidance for you.

How to Minimise Side Effects With Food?

Certain foods can help ease common discomforts from cancer treatments.

  • Constipation: by drinking water and eating high-fiber foods like fresh or dried fruit, beans, lentils and vegetables.
  • Diarrhoea : eat bland foods such as rice, apples, and banana. Drink water to stay hydrated.
  • Nausea by choosing bland foods and foods without strong odours. Steer clear of greasy foods. Go easy on your stomach by eating small meals throughout the day. Sip small amounts of dry ginger ale, flat lemonade or ginger lollies.

Speak with your doctor if symptoms persist as they will be able to prescribe the appropriate treatment for you, please note this is general information and should not replace seeing your treating medical team.

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