Nutritional Problems Of Cancer Therapy

Cancer is a term used to refer “malignant neoplasms or tumours“. Neoplasm means cells in a tissue proliferate without the normal controls on growth. In malignant neoplasms the cells spread to adjacent tissues and interferes with the function and often has undesirable systemic effects. This article tells you about the nutritional problems of cancer therapy.

Cancer is caused by mutation or abnormal activation of cellular genes that control cell growth and cell mitosis. The abnormal genes are called oncogenes.

Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue. Cancer causes cells to divide uncontrollably. This can result in tumors, damage to the immune system, and other impairment that can be fatal. Cancer can occur at any age and in any part of the body.

Nutritional Problems Of Cancer Therapy

1. Problems related to surgical treatment:

Beyond the regular nutritional needs surrounding any surgical procedure and its healing process,gastrointestinal surgery poses special problems for normal ingestion, digestion and absorption of food nutrients. Head and neck surgery or resections in the oropharyngeal area are sometimes necessitated by cancer.

Food intake is greatly affected in such cases and a creative variety of food problems of food ingestion make long-term tube feeding necessary.

Gastrectomy may cause numerous postgastrectomy “dumping” problems requiring frequent, small, low-carbohydrate feedings.

Vagotomy contributes to gastric stasis. Pancreatectomy contributes to loss of digestive enzymes, induced insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and general weight loss.

2. Problems related to radiotherapy:

Radiation to the oropharyngeal area often produces a loss of taste sensation with increasing anorexia, nausea and consequent decreased appetite. Other means of tempting appetite through food appearance and aroma, as well as texture must be developed.

Abdominal radiation may cause intestinal damage with tissue oedema and congestion, decreased peristalsis or endarteritis in a small blood vessels. In the intestinal wall there may be fibrosis, stenosis, necrosis or ulceration. If this condition continues over time, it may lead to haemorrhage, obstruction, fistulas, (abnormal communication between two body surfaces) diarrhoea or malabsorption, all contributing to nutritional problems. The liver is somewhat more resistant to damage from radiation in adults, but children are more vulnerable.

3. Problems related to chemotherapy:

These problems are related to:

  1. The gastrointestinal symptoms caused by the effect of the toxic drugs on the rapidly developing mucosal cells.
  2. The anaemia associated with bone marrow effects and
  3. The general systemic toxicity effect on appetite.

The stomatitis, nausea, diarrhoea and malabsorption contribute in many food intolerances. Prolonged vomiting seriously affects fluid and electrolyte balance especially in elderly persons and needs to be controlled. Anti-depressant drugs which are used for pretreatment to relieve mental depression cause well-known pressor effects when used with tyramine rich foods thus these foods should be avoided when using such drugs.