Tuesday, 6 March 2012


As ENT doctors we often deal with cancers involving the head and neck area, commonly the oral cavity, throat and nose (nasopharynx). Treatment of these cancers entail either surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of them. Because of the location of the cancer itself and the treatment, patient often have problems related to the head & neck area such as chewing and swallowing. And yet nutrition is an integral part of treatment to combat the disease.

During the course of the treatment patients should seek the doctor's advice before taking any supplements because it can interfere with the therapy. The doctor would also inform patients of the possible side effects of treatment and how best to prepare and deal with the problems. With the advent of new radiation technology there is less severe side effects such as those seen many years ago.

But what about after treatment? When follow-up examination and scans show that the cancer was successfully removed or had responded well to treatment, is it important to continue with a healthy diet?

An article published in the Harvard's Medical School's consumer health journal advocates healthy lifestyle as the key for cancer survivors to decrease the likelihood of recurrence. Their advice includes healthy eating with at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, exercise, maintaining body mass index between 20-25, eat fatty fish two to three times a week and having normal vitamin D levels.

The American Cancer Society has produced an informative booklet which provides nutrition advice during and after cancer treatment. The list below is taken from their booklet on tips of healthy eating after cancer treatment.

Tips on Healthy Eating after Cancer Treatment (American Cancer Society Nutrition Guide)

• Check with your doctor for any food or diet restrictions.
• Create healthy balance meals. Choose a variety of food.
• Eat at least 5 to 7 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits and dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables.
• Eat plenty of high-fiber foods, like whole-grain breads and cereals.
• Decrease the amount of fat in your meals by baking or broiling foods.
• Limit your intake of red meat to no more than 3 to 4 servings a week.
• Avoid salt-cured, smoked, and pickled foods (including bacon, sausage, and deli meats).
• Choose low-fat milk and dairy products.
• If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Exercise. Ask your doctor before starting any exercise regime.

USDA update pyramid 2005

Stephanie Meyers, 2009. Does diet affect cancer recurrence?
Healthy Eating. National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society. Nutrition

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