Diet and eating well
It’s especially important to eat a balanced diet when you’re having treatment. The right food helps your body stay strong and fight off infections; it can also help with energy levels.
This can be hard when treatment could affect your appetite in a variety of ways. Nurses and hospital dietitians will have tips to help you make sure you’re getting everything you need and can eat in a way that works for you.
- There are some great recipe books out there for while you’re having treatment. We like the Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook and Macmillan have a large collection of sweet and savoury recipes on their website
- Beware of diets that claim to ‘cure’ cancer – there is absolutely no scientific evidence that this is true
- Coping with weight changes can be difficult. If you’re struggling with this have a chat with someone and try to focus on getting the nutrition you need to help your body.
In the videos below, Charlotte talks about how her attitude to food changed after her diagnosis and what she's learned from trying different diets.
Ben talks about his struggle with treatment and how he built himself back up afterwards by getting his diet back on track.
Regular and gentle exercise is often encouraged throughout cancer treatment but it’s important you speak to health professionals first. They’ll need to take into account how treatment’s affected your hormones, flexibility, mobility and more. They can help you work out a plan that puts your health first.
- If it’s okay for you to exercise, think about an activity you usually enjoy or find something new if you can’t manage your usual routine
- When you’re low on energy, try something gentle like yoga or swimming providing your care team says it’s okay
- Check out our exercise programme to help you and other young people who have had cancer to lead a more active and energised lifestyle.
Vitamins and supplements
If your eating habits have changes you might not be getting all the nutrients your body needs. Taking vitamins or supplements can help replace these. Remember to speak to your doctor or dietitian before taking any, as they can be harmful in high doses or could react badly with your treatment.
- Supplement drinks can be useful if you’re not eating well or find it easier to have your food as a liquid. There are different types and flavours available that you can have hot or cold
- If you are losing too much weight adding ice cream or yoghurt to your supplement drinks can help boost the number of calories you’re having
- You should discuss the above with your doctor or dietitian as some can be prescribed, while others can be bought from supermarkets and chemists.
Complementary therapies can be used alongside medical treatment as a way to deal with side effects like nausea and fatigue and can help improve emotional wellbeing. They include acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, yoga and herbal medicine.
- Don’t confuse complementary therapies with alternative therapies which often claim to treat cancer without conventional medicine but have no scientific basis
- Don’t be disheartened if they aren’t making a difference – everyone’s different and the important thing is to find what works for you.
- Check in with your care team if you’re considering using a complementary therapy alongside your treatment, as research into the effectiveness of complementary therapies is ongoing.
Created June 2017, next review due June 2018.