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Supportive Nutrition Information in Cancer Care

Good Nutrition through a healthy diet is important for everyone, but especially those with cancer diagnosis. The cancer, the treatments and the recovery can make it very difficult at times to eat the way one would normally like to. The Department of Food and Nutrition Services has one full time Registered Dietitian at the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center - Hartford Hospital, and two part time inpatient Hartford Hospital Registered Dietitians who specialize in adult cancers. All three Dietitians are Master's prepared and certified nutritionists/dietitians with the State of Connecticut. Patients and their families can be assured that they are receiving the most up-to–date nutrition information that is personalized to their particular needs and concerns.

Our patients can make an appointment, with a physician referral, by calling (860) 545-5113, Monday - Friday.

Our Registered Dietitians will:

  • Provide individual eating plans depending on each persons needs
  • Provide written easy to follow materials help deal with treatment side effects and special needs
  • Will work with the patient’s healthcare team to ensure continuity of care
  • Provide assistance in understanding the benefits of nutritional supplements and help find the one best tolerate and meets individual needs
  • Provide assistance in obtaining nutritional supplements
  • Provide guidance and advice concerning adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and herbs during treatment
  • Provide advise on food safety if blood counts are down
  • Provide information for cancer recovery

Cancer’s effects on Diet and Nutrition

Benefits of Eating Well
Eating and drinking the right foods and liquids during and after cancer treatment can help a person maintain strength, prevent infections, and repair and rebuild damaged tissue. People who are able to maintain their weight and stay nourished have a better quality of life during treatment, can tolerate higher dosages of certain treatments and are less fatigued.

Reasons to Eat Well
Cancer cell growth can cause a change in the way nutrients are used by the body or can increase the amount of nutrients a person needs from food. The key nutrients; protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, minerals, water and electrolytes are all very important and therefore special attention is needed to be sure every bite counts.

Cancer related treatments are needed to stop and/ or kill cancer cells. This can cause some eating problems for patients. Some of the common problems can be:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful mouth and throat
  • Nausea /Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Taste changes or no taste
  • Sensitive to smell and food temperature
  • Dry mouth
  • Problems chewing
  • Digesting certain foods
  • Weight loss or weight gain

Our Registered Dietitian will help patient and family cope with individual eating problems as they arise.

Food Safety
Food safety is very important for everyone but it is especially important for the cancer patient undergoing treatment. High dosages of chemotherapy and radiation can reduce the number of white blood cells, which are used by the body to fight infection. Patients should be very careful and follow general food safety guidelines.

General food safety guidelines:

  • Wash hands with warm soapy water before and after preparing each food item, and before eating
  • Keep food counters and utensils clean. Wash counters and food preparation areas with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meat preparation, cooked meat, vegetables and fruit preparation
  • Replace sponges at least once a week. Wash daily in dishwasher or with a bleach solution
  • Be sure refrigerator is 34° F to 40° F
  • Refrigerate leftover foods within 2 hours of cooking in small shallow containers
  • Throw out leftovers that have been opened or used after 3 days When in doubt throw it out!
  • Use a meat thermometer to be sure meat 165 ° F and poultry 180° F are cooked to the proper temperature
  • Do not eat raw eggs or fish
  • Bring sauces, gravies, and soups to a rolling boil
  • Avoid salad bars, deli’s and buffets
  • Do not eat foods that are out of date
  • Do not use cans that are dented, swollen or leaking
  • Avoid tofu sold in open bins
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold