Caring for someone with cancer

If you’re caring for someone with cancer, you may need to deal with eating issues caused by the cancer and its treatment.

It’s natural for you to worry about the diet of the person you’re caring for, but try to avoid conflict over food, as this may only increase their anxiety and yours.

There are many reasons why someone may not feel like eating. You can read about different ways of coping with eating issues in the Treatment side effects and nutrition. If the person you are caring for agrees, it may be helpful to go with them to their dietitian appointments.

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Listen to our podcasts on Appetite Loss and Nausea and How to Help Someone with Cancer

Tips for preparing food if you are a carer

Try not to focus on how little the person is eating or drinking. Instead, gently encourage them to eat foods that are high in energy and protein when they are feeling well − this will help to make up for other times when they don’t eat much. When a person is having cancer treatment, so much is out of their control and they may feel that choosing what and when they eat is important. These tips may help you to support them:

  • Serve small amounts of food at a time, and freeze the leftovers.
  • Have ready-to-eat food available for when they feel like eating (e.g. tinned fruit, yoghurt, frozen meals).
  • Keep mealtimes flexible and be willing to try new ideas or recipes.
  • Make meals as enjoyable as possible – eat together, play music, set the table with candles and flowers.
  • Follow safe food-handling practices when preparing food.
  • Accept that during treatment the focus of the person with cancer may need to be on simply eating something, rather than on eating nutritious food all of the time.

If your child has cancer

The nutritional needs of children with cancer are different to adults, as children continue to grow and develop during treatment. Work closely with your doctor and dietitian − they will monitor your child’s weight and growth closely during treatment.

Be flexible – Let your child eat when they feel like it, not just at mealtimes. Be flexible in food choices, e.g. allow your child to have the same foods often or breakfast cereal for dinner if that’s what they prefer.

Offer nutritious food – Try not to make an issue of your child’s reluctance to eat. Instead, encourage them to eat nutritious, high-energy foods when they are feeling well.

Allow occasional treats – During treatment, any nourishment is better than none. Allow your child to eat fatty or sugary foods like cake, chips, chocolate and takeaway occasionally.

Eat at the table – Discourage your child from eating in front of the television as it can be distracting.

Make mealtimes fun – Focus on making mealtimes as relaxed as possible and see them as an opportunity to come together to share stories and discuss any problems. Regular family meals also give a child a sense of stability.

Looking after yourself

Being a carer can bring a sense of satisfaction, but it can also be exhausting and stressful. Trying to prepare food for someone who is having trouble eating can be especially challenging.

It is important to look after your own wellbeing, so you also need to eat well and get some exercise. Give yourself some time out and share your concerns with somebody neutral such as a counsellor or your doctor, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20. There is a wide range of support available to help you with both the practical and emotional aspects of your caring role.

Support services – Support services such as Meals on Wheels, home help or visiting nurses can help you in your caring role. You can find local services, as well as information and resources, through the Carer Gateway. Call 1800 422 737 or visit

Support groups and programs – Many cancer support groups and cancer education programs are open to carers as well as to people with cancer. Support groups and programs offer the chance to share experiences and ways of coping.

Carers Associations – Carers Australia works with the Carers Associations in each state and territory to provide information and services to carers. Call 1800 242 636 or visit

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Nutrition and Cancer.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in June 2019
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Cancer information

Caring for someone with cancer
This information is for people who are looking after someone with cancer

Dealing with the diagnosis
Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis and how to find hope

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends