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Getting the Most Out of Nutrition Counseling During Cancer


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Getting the Most Out of Nutrition Counseling During Cancer Treatment

January 13th, 2014 - by Jessica Iannotta

Nutrition counseling has a tremendous value in helping patients and caregivers develop and manage a healthy nutrition plan. It has been demonstrated that nutrition counseling before, during, and after cancer treatment can help to improve outcomes.

How to select the right expert:

The title “nutritionist” is not a regulated or licensed professional title. Therefore, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. It is important to only seek nutrition advice and participate in counseling from a Registered Dietitian (RD). An RD has had specific training in food and nutrition and has passed a national exam. He or she is also trained to provide Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT), an evidenced-based nutritional treatment for your specific disease. Specific to oncology, it is also important to select an RD who specializes in oncology nutrition. You can look for the title “Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition” or “CSO” after his or her name. This signifies that the RD has had additional experience and training in oncology; a minimum of 2,000 hours are required in addition to passing a national exam with recertification every 5 years. If you are unable to locate an RD in your area, select the “Find a Nutrition Professional” link to find an oncology nutrition professional in your area. If you do not seek nutrition information from the correct source, you risk receiving incorrect or potentially harmful recommendations during cancer treatment.

What to Discuss With a Nutrition Professional

A typical nutrition consultation will involve several aspects. First, the RD will review your medical records for pertinent nutrition-related issues. He or she will then interview you and ask you questions related to your diet history, medical history, medications, allergies, and nutrition-related symptoms. He or she may also perform a nutrition focused physical examination that examines your oral cavity, height, weight, and body fat percentage. After taking into account all of this subjective and objective information, the RD will design a meal plan and nutrition recommendations specific to your individual nutritional needs. He or she will then ask you to follow-up in a reasonable amount of time in order to achieve the goals that have been set for you. You may be asked to keep a diary of your symptoms or of the foods that you eat in order to help the RD assess how you are meeting your goals.

Key points to remember:

Always seek information from a Registered Dietitian (RD), preferably one who specializes in oncology nutrition (CSO).

Be sure to inform and coordinate with your medical team to implement the recommendations that your RD has provided to you.

Follow-up with your RD in a timely fashion to ensure that you are able to meet your nutrition goals

Keep a food diary of your symptoms or the foods that you eat in a typical day; this will help your RD provide recommendations that are individualized to your nutritional needs.

About Jessica Iannotta:

Jessica A. Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN, Chief Operating Officer.

Jessica is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition (CSO). She studied nutrition at Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at NewYork Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. She obtained her Master’s degree through the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Jessica has worked in inpatient and outpatient oncology settings since 2001 and currently works part time at North Shore-LIJ Monter Cancer Center. Jessica is in charge of all operations including clinical and culinary operations ranging from menu development to evidence-based website content, relationships with registered dieticians and social workers and developing processes and protocols for intake, management and outcomes analysis of patients.

http://blog.lungevity.org/2014/01/13/ge ... treatment/

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  • 6 months later...

Hi there, I'm new here and my mother was diagnosed with extensive stage lung cancer with a brain met. During her time in the hospital she had a registered dietician explain that she needed to gain weight because she was only 43 kilos. Mum has always been a slight build and we always told her she was way too thin but there were a lot of foods she couldn't tolerate and she exercises way too much etc. Anyway she has always been a bit lactose intolerant and can't really handle heavy fats. The dietician in there was saying she needed to eat full fat dairy, lots of cream, cakes, sweets etc which of course mum didn't want to eat because one she's not used to eating junk food and two because of the cramping she gets. I had a chat with the dietician saying I could help mum put on weight more healthily with good fats. But the dietician was having none of it saying mum would not put on weight with an avocado and while it is highly nutritious that we are not looking for nutritious food here, that we are only looking to gain the weight. She gave us shakes to take home which were laden with sweeteners and were luminous pink. I did my own research online and binned the pink shakes, made mum my own healthier shakes and put her on a mainly raw vegan diet with the exception of eggs. She gained 5 kilos in two weeks and was perfect weight for beginning her chemotherapy. So just be wary of the hospital dieticians because the advice they give you is not always the right advice for you. I have actually written a letter of complaint to the hospital about this also as I don't understand why the dietician didn't seem to care that my mother was lactose intolerant! In the hospital they were constantly giving her creamed rice, shakes with full fat milk, ice cream, cake, biscuits, deep fried fish etc. Is this the type of food they give all cancer patients in hospital because we were all really shocked at the lack of nutritious food she was getting!

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Welcome Bohohoney. Glad you found this site. Sounds like you will be a great help to your mother. You did a wonderful thing fixing all that healthy food and helping her maintain healthy weight.

When I was diagnosed I was 145 lbs (65.8 kgs) , I am fairly tall. I started treatment with daily radiation and 2 chemo drugs. They did not want me to loose any more weight so they encouraged me to eat all the candy and desert snacks they had in the clinic. I had been raised to eat desserts on holidays or birthdays only.

Boy did I learn from them how to eat lots of junk food! Here it is nearly 17 years later and I am still trying to break my new " habits" The blessing is that I am still alive and well.

Sounds like you are a little IRISH. My relatives are O'Hagan, Gilmartin, O' brian, Leahy, Sullivan, Murphy , to name a few.

We have a Lake Erie in the States, an Erie city in Pennsylvania, I wonder if the Irish had anything to do with naming them? Keep us posted on how your Mom is doing.

Donna G

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  • 2 years later...

We know that nutritional coaching helps people live a healthier life. People turn to dietitians every day to lose weight, manage their diabetes, and keep conditions like Crohn’s under control. What about cancer?

When people think of cancer, they think of the nausea, vomiting, and taste changes of chemo. While we all know cancer patients are plagued by problems eating, very few patients ever see a dietitian. Those who do often wait until it’s too late.

Studies show that counseling with a Registered Dietitian improves quality of life and outcomes for people affected by cancer. Nutritional needs change during the different phases of cancer treatment and nutritional counseling can help patients make well-informed lifestyle choices to address specific nutritional issues during treatment and as patients begin to improve and recover.

It is essential to have a nutritional counselor support you through your journey and encourage you to eat the 'right' foods for recovery. Each cancer patient needs to have a specialized healthy meal plan for their body, because everyone is different. 

Savor Health is a company who has made it their business to provide cancer patients with the tools to strengthen their nutrition during treatments. They are backed by oncologists and dietitians to provide the best dietary recommendations for your journey. You can contact Savor Health and talk to a oncology dietitian about a meal plan that would work well for you. 

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