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Cansa offers advice on diet

This month (August), the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) highlights its service offering to cancer patients, caregivers and loved ones.

In support of this initiative, Cansa has launched #CANSACares to create awareness on the topic.

The campaign focuses, in particular, on coping with a diagnosis as well as managing side effects of cancer treatment, whether physical or psychological.

An important aspect of this includes providing patients with dietary guidelines and advice before, during and after treatment. Cansa gives some top tips for dealing with common side effects related to nutrition, as well as nutritious, affordable recipes for patients undergoing treatment. Further dietary tips about coping with constipation, nausea, diarrhoea and loss of appetite are available. Cansa also recommends that survivors speak to a healthcare professional for individualised advice.

Gerda Strauss, Cansa’s head of service delivery, explains why this is such an important part of supporting patients. “We recognise that it’s particularly unsettling for cancer survivors (patients) undergoing treatment, that side effects of treatment or the disease itself can lead to eating and drinking being unpleasant. Aside from the challenge of maintaining adequate nutritional intake, there are also psycho-social knock-on effects. For example, survivors, depending on which side effects they are experiencing, may prefer not to eat with others, or be fearful of eating, because of a side effect they may experience.”

Cancer treatment kills off cancer cells, but unfortunately, healthy cells may be damaged in the process resulting in various side effects that may differ from one person to another.

Side effects of treatment – such as a sore mouth or throat, dry mouth, dental or gum deterioration, change in taste or smell of food, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation – can lead to avoidance of meals or difficulty in taking in enough food and fluids. This in turn may lead to malnutrition and negatively affect the patient’s health further.

Megan Pentz-Kluyts, Cansa’s consulting registered dietician, elaborates. “It’s important for survivors undergoing treatment to consume a variety of foods in order for their bodies to take in sufficient nutrients to fight cancer.

“Good nutrition leads to increased strength and energy, lowers risk for infection and helps patients maintain an appropriate weight. An added complication is that cancer treatment may affect the manner in which the body tolerates food and makes use of nutrients, which may also vary during and after treatment.

“For this reason we recommend that if possible, survivors consult with a registered dietician if they are experiencing problems related to diet.”

Patients, caregivers and loved ones in need of support and guidance can find the services provided by their local Cansa Care Centre on www.cansa.org.za.

Cansa also offers multilingual support on WhatsApp: 072 197 9305 for English and Afrikaans, and 071 867 3530 for Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Siswati. Follow them on Twitter @CANSA, Facebook on “CANSA The Cancer Association of South Africa” and Instagram @cancerassociationofsouthafrica.

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