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Thrive Kitchen: Connecting with an oncology dietitian

10 October, 2023

When it comes to nutrition and cancer, experiences can be different. Some people may have challenges eating because of nausea or physical impacts of treatment (such as for head and neck cancers). Others may be looking to improve their diet in preparation for treatment.

Whatever the reasons, a visit to an oncology dietitian can help anyone diagnosed with cancer gain the knowledge, tools, and support to ensure their nutritional needs are met. Oncology dietitians are a valuable part of the cancer care team, creating individualized medical nutrition therapy plans, educating on potential side effects and how they may affect nutrition and digestion, and providing ongoing guidance in partnership with the care team to best support each patient.

Some of the priorities an oncology dietitian will focus on are helping the person with cancer to maintain body weight and preserve muscle mass. They'll also suggest small changes to one's diet that can help reduce the impacts of nausea, diarrhea, and taste and appetite changes.

Another great thing oncology dietitians can do is address some of those persistent food myths. For example, there's no one particular food that will cause a cancer to grow faster or to slow its growth or spread. (If that were the case, we'd just eat that food and cure cancer!) They can also clear up questions about special diets, like keto or alkaline diets or cleanses.

The best way to connect with an oncology dietitian is to ask your cancer care team or social worker for a referral. You can also reach out to a ThriveNV navigator for assistance in finding a dietitian.

Special thanks to Julie Shimko, MA, RD, Outpatient Oncology Registered Dietitian, Stanford Oncology for providing this information via the 2023 Nevada Cancer Control Summit.

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