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Fueling Up: Eating To Stay Strong When You Have Cancer

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This is the third and final post in our series in honor of International Women’s Day and our collaboration with World Cancer Research Fund. To wrap up, Deborah Howland talks about the importance of diet for anyone facing cancer – or trying to prevent it. A specialist dietitian at Torbay Hospital in South Devon, U.K., Deborah knows first-hand how SCIEX-supported WCRF outreach is making life better for those undergoing cancer treatment.

Catch up on our first two posts here:


As a specialist dietitian, I work with people diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Exhausted and run down from the side effects of grueling treatments, they may not have the energy to eat well. What’s more, cancer treatment can render food tasteless – my patients often say everything tastes like cardboard – or makes it feel grainy and gritty in the mouth. Those with head or neck cancer may have difficulty swallowing.

Faced with all these challenges, it’s not surprising many patients don’t eat well. And when they stop fuelling their body adequately, they’re like a car running on empty.

Critical information at a critical time.

I do everything I can to prepare patients to face the challenges of treatment on a full tank. One invaluable tool is World Cancer Research Fund’s Eating Well During Cancer guide. Written by specialist dietitians, the guide is full of useful tips for coping with some of the most common treatment side effects.

The advice is evidence-based and practical – and the need for it is stark: WCRF figures show that nearly half of U.K. cancer patients received no dietary advice during treatment.

Putting the guidance to work.

I introduce the guide to patients even before they start their treatment, so they’re familiar with its wide range of tips and recipes. Ensuring a working knowledge of the guide promotes independence for patients, empowers them to manage their own health – a key aim – and builds a foundation for the more tailored advice we provide during weekly check-ins. Its electronic format is handy, too: Patients can get overloaded with printed materials after a diagnosis, so information that’s easy to access on a phone or tablet is definitely welcome.

Closing the loop: Eating to prevent cancer.

Good nutrition doesn’t just play an important role during cancer treatment, it’s also a first line of defense against getting the disease – and WCRF has important advice on that front, too. Its Cancer Prevention Recommendations are simple, evidence-based tips that everyone can use to make practical changes to their diet and lifestyle. I encourage you to check them out now to see which ones you could implement starting today.

Of course, WCRF could not produce these powerful tools and others like them without the generous support of companies like SCIEX and its associates. Thank you so much for your ongoing support. I am privileged to have seen first-hand the positive impact it makes every day.

Missed the first two posts in our International Women’s Day series? Check out Dawn Penner’s inspirational story about life after a breast cancer diagnosis and how SCIEX technology is helping save the lives of patients like her. Then learn more about how Dr. Jennifer Baker’s game-changing research could lead to better breast-cancer outcomes.

WCRF’s informative – and free – Eat Well During Cancer guide is available here.

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