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Eating Hints: Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment

  • Posted: 09/30/2009

Feelings Can Affect Your Appetite During Cancer Treatment

During cancer treatment, you may feel:

  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Afraid
  • Angry
  • Helpless
  • Alone

It is normal to have these feelings. Although these are not eating problems themselves, strong feelings like these can affect your interest in food, shopping, and cooking. Fatigue can also make it harder to cope.

Coping with your feelings during cancer treatment

There are many things you can do to cope with your feelings during treatment so they do not ruin your appetite. Here are some ideas that have worked for other people.

  • Eat your favorite foods on days you do not have treatment. This way, you can enjoy the foods, but they won’t remind you of something upsetting.
  • Relax, meditate, or pray. Activities like these help many people feel calm and less stressed.
  • Talk with someone you trust about your feelings. You may want to talk with a close friend, family member, religious or spiritual leader, nurse, social worker, counselor, or psychologist. You may also find it helpful to talk with someone who has gone through cancer treatment.
  • Join a cancer support group. This can be a way to meet others dealing with problems like yours. In support group meetings, you can talk about your feelings and listen to other people talk about theirs. You can also learn how others cope with cancer, treatment side effects, and eating problems. Ask your doctor, nurse, or social worker about support group meetings near you. You may also want to know about support groups that meet over the Internet. These can be very helpful if you cannot travel or there is no group that meets close by.
  • Learn about eating problems and other side effects before treatment starts. Many people feel more in control when they know what to expect and how to manage problems that may occur.
  • Get enough rest. Make sure you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. During the day, spend time doing quiet activities such as reading or watching a movie.
  • Do not push yourself to do too much or more than you can manage. Look for easier ways to do your daily tasks. Many people feel better when they ask for or accept help from others.
  • Be active each day. Studies show that many people feel better when they take short walks or do light exercise each day. Being active like this can also help improve your appetite.
  • Talk with your doctor or nurse about medicine if you find it very hard to cope with your feelings.

Ways to learn more

The following groups provide support for people with cancer and their families and friends.

CancerCare, Inc.

Offers free support, information, financial assistance, and practical help to people with cancer and their loved ones.

Call: 1-800-813-HOPE (1-800-813-4673)
Visit: http://www.cancercare.org
E-mail: info@cancercare.org

The Cancer Support Community

Dedicated to providing support, education, and hope to people affected by cancer.

Call: 1-888-793-9355 or 202-659-9709
Visit: http://www.cancersupportcommunity.org
E-mail: help@cancersupportcommunity.org

To read more about ways to cope with your feelings, see Taking Time: Support for People With Cancer. To learn more about coping with fatigue caused by cancer treatment, see Chemotherapy and You and Radiation Therapy and You. These books are from the National Cancer Institute. You can get free copies at https://pubs.cancer.gov/ncipl or 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).