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Nutrition During & After Mesothelioma Cancer Treatment

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A healthy diet and proper nutrition during and after mesothelioma treatment are important. Eating right may help patients manage treatment side effects and maintain quality of life. A patient’s care team can recommend a personalized diet for before, during and after treatment.


01. How Nutrition Helps

How Diet & Nutrition Can Help Mesothelioma Cancer Patients During Treatment and Recovery

A mesothelioma treatment diet may help patients manage side effects of active treatment. For instance, dietitians may recommend diets with high-protein food sources, such as chicken, fish and cooked eggs. High-protein diets can help patients maintain their energy during treatment. A diet during treatment may also include a good selection of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber.

It’s important to note that no diet can prevent mesothelioma. However, a care team may recommend a personalized mesothelioma diet that may help patients after diagnosis. A custom diet may help a patient during treatment by giving their body much-needed nutrients. Maintaining good nutrition through treatment and recovery can help patients support their immune system and manage treatment side effects.

Patients should ask their care team about what foods to eat and avoid. The care team will know what is best for each individual case.

Mesothelioma Treatment Side Effects That Nutrition May Help Manage

  • Constipation
  • Dental or gum problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full too early
  • Nausea
  • Sore mouth or throat
  • Taste changes
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
02. Nutrition Before Treatment

Nutrition Before Starting Mesothelioma Cancer Treatment

After a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis, many patients have a lot of questions. One question a patient should consider asking their care team is about a mesothelioma treatment diet. The care team may make diet recommendations to help the patient get ready for treatment.

Before diagnosis, some people experience weight loss. Research shows that maintaining a healthy weight throughout treatment is beneficial. A doctor may put patients who have experienced weight loss on a diet to help them gain weight.

For instance, to prepare for treatment, a care team may recommend a high-protein, high-calorie diet. Foods in these categories, such as nuts, eggs and turkey, can help patients gain and maintain weight.

It’s important for the patient and caregiver to follow the diet plan to ensure the patient maintains weight and has the nutrients needed for treatment.

03. Nutrition and Chemotherapy

Nutrition During Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma Cancer

Chemotherapy for mesothelioma can cause side effects, and not everyone will have the same side effects. When side effects do show up, it’s best to talk to a doctor about dietary changes that could help. Depending on the side effects the patient is experiencing, the care team may be able to recommend dietary changes to help manage them.

Chemotherapy can cause various side effects that impact a patient’s appetite and weight. Proper nutrition may help the following common side effects of chemotherapy:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Swelling or sores in the mouth
  • Vomiting

The care team can give patients anti-nausea medicine to help after treatment. Dietitians may also recommend certain foods to help patients during chemotherapy, such as cream of wheat, oatmeal, cereals, chicken, tofu or gelatin. These foods are bland, which may help with nausea and other side effects.

Foods high in protein, whole grains, fruit and soups may help with constipation and diarrhea. Drinking plenty of fluids can help the body clear chemotherapy byproducts. Patients may want to try herbal teas, popsicles, gelatin, clear broths and/or sports drinks to avoid dehydration.

Some recommendations instruct patients to try eating small, bland meals during chemotherapy. For instance, patients might plan to have five to six small meals a day rather than larger meals less frequently.

04. Nutrition and Radiation

Nutrition During Radiation for Mesothelioma Cancer

Mesothelioma radiation therapy often has localized side effects. Patients receiving radiation targeted at the head or neck have experienced unwanted reactions in that area. They have reported dry mouth, inflammation in the mouth and lack of taste after radiation therapy. Patients may be able to make changes to their diet to help manage such side effects.

Patients should talk to the care team about any side effects they experience. Some diet changes can help with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and mouth problems, such as sores and swelling. For instance, more frequent and smaller meals may help manage some of these symptoms. Foods with whole grains and fiber may help with constipation, whereas low-fiber foods may help patients experiencing diarrhea.

Dietitians may also recommend high-protein and high-calorie foods as part of the patient’s nutrition plan during radiation. These foods help ensure the mesothelioma patient gets enough nutrition to maintain weight. It’s important for patients to continue following their dietary plan—even when they may not feel well. Some foods that the care team may suggest during radiation therapy include:

  • Beans
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurts
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Seafood

These foods are high in protein. In addition to helping patients maintain weight, research suggests high-protein foods may help repair body tissue and maintain a healthy immune system.

05. Nutrition and Surgery

Nutrition and Surgery for Mesothelioma Cancer

Patients may be eligible for mesothelioma surgery. Depending on the type of surgery, patients can experience various side effects, including loss of appetite and other eating problems. A patient’s care team can develop a dietary plan that may help patients before and after surgery.

For instance, experts emphasize the importance of nutrition for patients undergoing surgery. If patients are weak or underweight, their care team may recommend eating a high-protein, high-calorie diet.

The care team may develop a personalized dietary plan for the patient’s nutritional needs ahead of surgery and for recovery. A dietitian will recommend foods the patient should eat, which may include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber. The care team may also tell patients to avoid some foods.

Foods to Avoid After Having Surgery for Mesothelioma

The care team will have specific instructions on the types of food a patient should avoid after surgery. Generally, these foods will cause bloating or gas and may be difficult to digest. Specific foods dietitians may recommend surgical patients avoid include:

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carbonated drinks (sodas)
  • Cucumbers
  • Green peppers
  • Peas
  • Radishes

Dietitians may recommend various post-surgical foods to boost protein intake. This helps the body heal and repair itself after surgery. Patients should be sure to talk to their care team about tips to ensure proper nutrition during this time.

06. Nutrition and Immunotherapy

Nutrition During Immunotherapy for Mesothelioma Cancer

Immunotherapy for mesothelioma is a newer treatment option that has shown promise. As with other treatments, proper nutrition plays a role in the patient’s recovery after immunotherapy. The nutritionist on the cancer care team may assist in developing a dietary plan to help manage immunotherapy side effects.

The dietary plan may include high-protein and high-calorie foods to help manage the side effects of treatment. Common side effects from immunotherapy that food may help manage include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea

To help ease these side effects, a diet may include poultry, fish, lean red meat, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Some studies have linked helpful gut bacteria to the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Researchers believe finding the right balance of these bacteria can aid immunotherapy effectiveness. To balance them, patients may need to change their diet and take supplements.

Patients should discuss their diet with the cancer team if they undergo immunotherapy.

07. Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle Changes to Aid Recovery

During and after treatment for mesothelioma, a patient’s care team may recommend lifestyle changes to further aid recovery. This may include dietary changes and incorporating physical activity. After treatment, these changes may help the patient stay healthy. For instance, lifestyle changes may help patients maintain a healthy weight, build muscle and boost the body’s ability to fight cancer.

Also, making these changes can help the patient manage side effects from mesothelioma treatment. Certain foods and lifestyle changes may have a direct impact on how bad the side effects are.

Hydration and Cancer

One lifestyle change a mesothelioma patient may make is ensuring they stay hydrated. Hydration is important for everyone, especially mesothelioma patients. By getting enough fluids, a person can flush waste out of their body. Hydration can also help with some side effects from treatment, including:

  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Weakness

These side effects may be caused by various treatments. Staying hydrated may help manage these side effects. Patients can get fluids from:

  • Drinks, such as water, seltzer, fruit and vegetable juices, sports drinks, tea, milk and nutritional supplement drinks
  • Select sweets, such as gelatin, ice pops, ice cream, frozen yogurt, Italian ice, sorbets and milkshakes
  • Soups, such as bouillon and broth

Patients may also need to avoid drinks with alcohol and caffeine because they can dehydrate them. For instance, energy drinks, sodas, tea and coffee may cause dehydration.

Physical Activity and Mesothelioma Cancer

A mesothelioma patient’s care team may recommend physical activity and an active lifestyle after treatment. Some studies show a link between high levels of physical activity and decreased cancer risk.

Maintaining good activity levels after treatment can help patients:

  • Boost self-confidence, self-esteem and independence
  • Combat fatigue
  • Improve overall strength and quality of life
  • Keep muscles strong and functioning properly
  • Maintain physical abilities and range of motion
  • Manage a healthy weight
  • Reduce issues with anxiety and depression

After treatment, patients should speak with their doctor about appropriate exercises. The doctor will also know if the patient has certain limitations after treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Smoking and Mesothelioma Risk

Mesothelioma patients should not smoke because it is a known risk factor for the cancer. There are two major ways smoking tobacco can cause cancer:

  • The poisons in smoke can weaken the immune system. It is then harder to kill cancer cells and easier for cancer to spread.
  • The poisons in smoke can damage or change cell DNA. This affects normal cell growth and function. Cells can then grow out of control and create tumors.

It may be advantageous for recovering patients to avoid smoking to help combat cancer and prevent growth and recurrence. If patients smoke, they should talk to their doctor about quitting.

08. Nutrition After Treatment

Mesothelioma Diet & Nutrition After Treatment

Even after active treatment is complete, mesothelioma patients may still need to follow certain dietary plans. Their care team can make recommendations based on their individual nutritional needs.

Maintaining proper nutrition and a balanced diet after treatment can fuel a patient’s recovery. Research suggests that excess weight and lack of physical activity can have a negative impact on a person’s health. A dietitian will work with patients recovering from treatments to determine the best foods to eat and appropriate activity levels. While the diet may change after treatment, many of the principles are the same. For instance, after active treatment, doctors may recommend mesothelioma survivors eat more of certain foods and avoid others.

Mesothelioma survivors can ask questions about this during follow-up care visits. These visits allow the doctor to monitor for signs of recurrence. The care team can also further advise on any dietary or lifestyle changes that may help with any lingering side effects. The patient may want to discuss any new or ongoing side effects and ask questions.

Mesothelioma Survivors Diet

Just as with any diet, mesothelioma survivors will not have one specific dietary plan to follow. There isn’t a type of food alone that can reduce the risk of cancer or recurrence. Instead, survivors can make lifestyle and dietary changes that may help ease side effects and improve quality of life.

A dietitian can develop a customized mesothelioma survivor’s diet to address each person’s unique needs.

Many of the foods patients eat during treatment may still be part of their daily diet when treatment is complete. This includes high-protein foods and fruits and vegetables. These foods may help the patient keep their strength and provide important nutrients. Some tips dietitians may recommend for mesothelioma survivors include:

  • Eating more fruits and vegetables: Fruit and vegetables provide vital nutrients to health. Experts recommend eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Limiting red meat: Researchers have found red meat can increase cancer risk. Mesothelioma patients may need to limit the amount they eat to three or four servings per week.
  • Continuing to eat unsaturated fats: Patients may benefit from eating foods high in unsaturated fats, such as nuts, poultry and fish. Experts suggest making unsaturated fats no more than 30% of total daily calories.
  • Limiting alcohol: Patients may want to have no more than one serving of alcohol per day—if they have any at all.

Little evidence shows any one food lowers cancer risk. Instead, experts recommend a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.

A dietitian or nutritionist can develop an individual plan that addresses the survivor’s unique needs. They may also be able to make recommendations to help ease any long-term side effects of treatment.

From diagnosis to becoming a survivor, people with mesothelioma may benefit from working with their care team to ensure proper nutrition. A healthy diet can help ease side effects and give the patient the nutrients their body needs for treatment. After treatment, lifestyle and diet changes may help maintain quality of life.

Patients may want to talk to their care team and consult other nutrition resources about lifestyle and diet changes to make after treatment.

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