Information for carers

If you’re caring for someone with cancer, it can be challenging knowing how to deal with eating issues caused by the cancer and its treatment. It’s natural for a carer to worry about the diet of the person they’re caring for.

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Listen to our podcast on Appetite Loss and Nausea

How to help with eating issues

  • Learn more about how cancer and its treatment affect eating. You will then be prepared for changes in appetite, taste and other side effects.
  • Read about different ways of coping with eating issues. See Treatment side effects and nutrition.
  • Try not to focus on how little the person is eating or drinking. Instead, gently encourage them to eat high-energy foods when they are feeling well.
  • Serve small amounts of food at a time, and freeze the leftovers.
  • Have ready-to-eat food for when they feel like eating. For example, tinned fruit in the cupboard, yoghurt in the fridge, frozen meals in the freezer.
  • Keep mealtimes flexible and be willing to try new ideas or recipes. See Recipes and snacks for suggestions.
  • 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 is on eating and not on eating nutritious food all of the time.

If your child has cancer

  • 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 – allow your child to have the same foods often or breakfast cereal for dinner if that’s what they prefer.
  • Encourage them to eat 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.
  • Offer occasional treats – Allow your child to eat fatty or sugary foods like cake, chips and chocolate occasionally. These foods are useful high-energy snacks if they are all your child wants to eat. During treatment, any nourishment is better than none. Have takeaway food occasionally, as it can tempt fussy eaters.
  • Make mealtimes fun – Focus on making mealtimes as relaxed as possible and an opportunity to come together to share stories and discuss any problems. Regular family meals also give a child a sense of stability.
  • Eat at the table – Discourage your child from eating in front of the television as it can be distracting.

Looking after yourself

Caring for someone who is unwell can be exhausting and stressful. Try to look after yourself and share your worries and concerns with somebody neutral, such as a counsellor or your doctor. If you can, arrange some time off to rest or to participate in activities you enjoy. Accept offers of help from family, friends and neighbours, and ask for help if you need it.

Why eat well? is is a brief guide to what to eat and how much to exercise to maintain your health and well-being.

Many cancer support groups and cancer education programs are open to carers, as well as people with cancer. They offer valuable opportunities to share experiences and ways of coping. 

Support services such as Home Help, Meals on Wheels or visiting nurses can help you in your caring role. There are also many groups and organisations that can provide you with information and support, such as Carers Australia, the national body representing carers in Australia. Carers Australia works with Carers Associations in each of the states and territories. Phone 1800 242 636 for more information and resources.

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 May 2016
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