Cancer Nutritionists & Dietitians
What makes a cancer nutritionist, often referred to as an oncology nutritionist, different from other nutritionists and dietitians? What do nutritionists and dietitians do when they are focused solely on patients who have been diagnosed with a type of cancer? Nutrition plays three major factors in the medical fight against cancer:
- Nutrition As Prevention
- Nutrition To Support Cancer Treatment
- Nutrition As A Treatment For Cancer
For nutritionists and dietitians who are working with patients currently battling cancer, numbers two and three are relevant to this section of information. Moreover, cancer nutritionists and dietitians working specifically with children have additional criteria they must focus on.
Nutrition To Support Cancer Treatment
Nutrition is the most important factor that people can do each day to ensure good health. However, as we all know, this can be difficult even in the best of times. Eating enough fruits and vegetables, limiting fat and simple sugars and drinking enough water is not always as easy as it sounds. But when cancer patients are faced with the affects of various ailments from either the cancer or the treatment, eating healthy can become nearly impossible. Many cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or immunotherapy not only kill cancer cells, but many of the body’s necessary good cells along with them. Nutrition therapy then becomes the single most important factor in the patients fight to regain health from many of these treatments.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), cancer patients can suffer from a number of affects from their illness and their treatment, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Sore/Dry mouth or throat
- Dental and gum problems
- Changes in taste or smell
- Diarrhea & Constipation
- Fatigue & Depression
Fighting cancer is a 24-hour a day, 7 day a week job, and it is up to the patient to give their best fight. A nutritionist or dietitian working with cancer patients is absolutely integral to the patient’s ability to remain as healthy as possible through the prescription of a balanced diet, provision of the right foods and liquids and any necessary supplements that can assist in the patients fight against both the cancer and any negative side-affects of the treatment.
Nutrition As A Treatment For Cancer
For many people diagnosed with cancer these days, there is a wide range of naturopathic and holistic treatments to their illness. With the negative side-affects of many of today’s traditional cancer treatments, more patients are choosing to fight their cancer with nutrition and other naturopathic regiments. For others, their cancer may not be curable with conventional medicine, or simply past the point of treatment. For these patients, nutrition becomes paramount as a means to combat their illness, from fighting the cancer back to simply improving their quality of life for the duration of their illness.
Patients needs differ depending on a wide range of factors, from the type of cancer they are battling to the types of treatments they have chosen to use. Doctors, nurses, nutritionists and dietitians work closely with cancer patients and their families to identify the specific needs of each patient, to put together a plan to provide the patient the best chance at a healthy fight. A good nutrition plan during cancer treatment can affect the following areas of the patient’s experience:
- More energy & strength
- Maintaining weight & increasing the body’s ability to store nutrients
- Improve the body’s ability to tolerate side effects of treatment
- Lowers risk of infection
- Speeds recovery after each round of treatment
A complete nutritional treatment includes a careful analysis of each patient, identifying the levels of nutrients including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, water and all necessary vitamins and minerals.
Board Certification As A Specialist In Oncology Nutrition & The ADA
The American Dietetic Association’s credentialing agency, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) approves Board Certification for Specialists in Oncology Nutrition. This specific certification is obtained through a documented period of practical experience in the cancer field as well as an examination in cancer nutrition administered by the CDR. The Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (ON DPG) is the professional practice group within the CDR and the ADA which oversees all oncology nutritionists and dietitians. Once an individual is board certified, he or she is then known as a CSO, or Certified Specialist in Oncology, under the ADA.
Nutrition & Cancer Organizations
American Cancer Society
Institute For Cancer Research
1759 R Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
National Cancer Institute
6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322
Caring 4 Cancer
6031 University Blvd.
Ellicott City MD, 21043