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The Role of Nutrition in Cancer Care

For today’s post, we talked with our own Erica Dodge, clinical dietitian, and Ben Dyer, dietetic technician registered, about how Southeastern Med’s nutritional services help both the patients and staff in our oncology department.

Good nutrition is, of course, a great way to help prevent many chronic diseases, but it’s also still a valuable tool for those in treatment or in recovery, including cancer patients. The role of our nutritional services professionals, then, is to “assess needs, symptoms, and hurdles that need to be targeted,” Ben Dyer explains. “We offer support and follow-up calls or visits to comfort patients and ease concerns, and we provide education and support for patients who require or may require tube feeding. These patients get a one-on-one encounter in which we run through formula, fluid needs/flushes, and care. We also work with the patient, staff, and case management team to provide the best plan their insurance will provide.”

At Southeastern Med, a breakdown of “nutrient needs” is created for each cancer patient throughout their treatment. Ben and Erica and the rest of the team then put together a care package of supplements and educational materials based on those specific patients’ needs. This generally includes the booklet Nutrition for the Person During Cancer Treatment, as well as trial supplements selected to aid in the patient’s hydration and protein and calorie intake.

“We provide a breakdown of estimated Kcal intake/protein/fluid needs, as well as other nutrient needs,” Dyer says. “We can also estimate the patient’s current intakes based on a diet recall.”

“If there are swallowing or chewing difficulties that may need addressed,” Dodge adds, “we work with a speech pathologist to help find the best route forward. In some cases, swelling may occur that forms a stricture that food will not pass through safely.”

The nutrition support team makes the oncologist’s job much easier, while also ensuring each patient is best equipped for what’s ahead, with an added sense of comfort and confidence. “We attempt to find a way and guide patients down that path to help them maintain and thrive during a cancer diagnosis and treatment itself,” says Dyer.

To learn more about nutrition’s role in fighting chronic disease, read this post.

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