- Cancer Information
- Living well
- Nutrition and cancer
- The importance of eating well
- Eating well after a cancer diagnosis
Eating well after a cancer diagnosis
During cancer treatment and recovery, you may need to adapt what you eat to cope with your body’s changing needs.
Learn more about eating well:
- Preparing for treatment
- During treatment
- After treatment
- Once you have recovered
- If you are living with advanced cancer
- Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, try to eat as well as you can before starting treatment.
- Eat a variety of foods and do some physical activity to build muscle (if you are feeling well enough).
- If you have lost weight and/or you are not eating as well as usual, you may need food with more energy (kilojoules) and protein.
- Ask your general practitioner (GP) or oncologist for a referral to a dietitian for advice about diet. You can also be referred to other health professionals, such as physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and psychologists. These health professionals can work together to help prepare you for cancer treatment.
- You may need food with more energy (kilojoules) and protein. If you don’t have much appetite, eat small, frequent meals or snacks, rather than three large meals a day.
- If treatment affects what you can eat, see these tips.
- Ask for a referral to a dietitian if weight loss is ongoing or rapid.
- Do regular physical activity to improve appetite and mood, reduce fatigue, help digestion and prevent constipation. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can help you develop an exercise plan.
- Check with your doctor or dietitian before taking vitamin or mineral supplements or making major changes to your diet.
- Try to maintain your weight to speed up recovery.
- Eat a variety of foods and do some physical activity to rebuild muscle and recover from the side effects of cancer treatment. You can ask to see a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist for help developing an exercise plan.
- If you continue to experience treatment side effects that affect what you can eat, see these suggestions. You can also talk to a dietitian for further assistance.
- Focus on healthy eating once you’ve recovered from the side effects of treatment. For more on this, see general healthy eating guidelines.
- Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active to help lower the chance of cancer coming back. Read more about physical activity guidelines for adults.
- Visit your doctor for regular check-ups.
For more on this, see Living well after cancer.
- Good nutrition can improve quality of life.
- Adjust food choices and eating patterns to meet your changing nutritional needs.
- Talk to your doctor about medicines that may boost appetite.
- Relax usual dietary restrictions, e.g. use full-cream rather than low-fat milk.
- Consider nutritional supplements if you can’t eat enough. Discuss options with your doctor, palliative care specialist or dietitian. For more on this, see Nutrition and advanced cancer.
Jenelle Loeliger, Head of Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rebecca Blower, Public Health Advisor, Cancer Prevention, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Julia Davenport, Consumer; Irene Deftereos, Senior Dietitian, Western Health, VIC; Lynda Menzies, A/Senior Dietitian – Cancer Care (APD), Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Janice Savage, Consumer.
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