Treatment side effects and nutrition

Cancer treatments kill cancer cells, but in the process they damage normal healthy cells and cause side effects. These side effects vary from person to person, depending on the type of treatment, the part of the body treated, and the length and dose of treatment. Most side effects are temporary and go away after treatment ends. There are ways to control and manage side effects.

The side effects of cancer treatment can affect what you can eat and how much. We discuss some of the most common nutrition impacts of cancer treatment and offer a range of practical suggestions for coping with them.

Feeling anxious about the diagnosis and treatment can also affect your appetite. Talk to a family member or friend, the social worker at the hospital, your doctor or a psychologist if you are experiencing these feelings. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

For more on this, see the treatments section for the type of cancer you have,  and listen to our podcast on Appetite Loss and Nausea.

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How treatment affects nutrition

Side effects vary from person to person, and depend on the type of treatment, the part of the body treated, and the length and dose of treatment.

Treatment

Possible side effects

surgery
the partial or total removal of a tumour or body part

difficulty chewing and swallowing, diarrhoea, difficulty absorbing nutrients, weight loss

chemotherapy
the use of drugs that kill or slow the growth of cancer cells

loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea, mouth sores, difficulty swallowing, taste changes, lowered immunity, fatigue, weight loss

radiation therapy
the use of targeted radiation to kill or injure cancer cells; also known as radiotherapy

loss of appetite, fatigue, taste changes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dry mouth, mouth sores, difficulty swallowing, bowel obstruction, weight loss

steroid therapy
drugs used to treat inflammation and some blood cancers

increased appetite, weight gain, increased risk of infection, stomach irritation

stem cell transplant
the process of replacing stem cells destroyed by high-dose chemotherapy

lowered immunity, sore mouth and throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss

hormone therapy
drugs that block the hormones that help some cancers grow

weight gain, increased cholesterol levels

targeted therapy
drugs that attack specific particles within cells that allow cancer to grow and spread

diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, constipation, taste changes, mouth sores, fever, increased risk of infection, weight loss

immunotherapy
drugs that use the body’s own immune system to fight cancer

diarrhoea, bloody stools, abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss or weight gain

 

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.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

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”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

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.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

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 http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

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
View who reviewed this content
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