What Is the Role of Nutrition in Lung Cancer?

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Topics include: Living Well and Understanding

Does nutrition play a big role in wellness with lung cancer patients? Dr. Malcolm DeCamp, Dr. Paul Paik, Mary Ellen Hand and Katie Brown discuss how there are a lot of misconceptions out there that patients should question. They also discuss their recommendations. Tune in for learn more. 

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Susan Leclair: 

We talked about yes, walking and exercise. What about diet? And no, I don’t mean if I eat 17 radishes and nothing else, is this going to cure me?  But these are hopefully now chronic conditions.  There’s a long haul. What is the role of nutrition in a global sense in this? Does it help? Should there be things that people should be I don’t know if looking for eating more is the right thing, but are there things people should be emphasizing, I guess?

Should I eat more raw? Should I eat less meat? Should I do whatever?

Dr. DeCamp:       

Well, if we had those discrete answers, we’d all be doing it or recommending it. 

Susan Leclair:     

I was hoping to get some early news. 

Dr. DeCamp:       

You need a balanced diet. Web is full of misinformation about X, Y or Z being key to, you know, survival. And that’s just preying upon folks’ anxiety, and it irritates me personally when people put a lot of stock in stuff like that.  If 15 pounds of shark cartilage was going to fix advanced lung cancer, there wouldn’t be enough sharks in the world.  You know, we’d all be eating it. I get annoyed when people dangle that out there.  I think common sense, you need a balanced diet, I think a balanced approach to vitamins.

I’m not against this supplement or that supplement. I think if the patient believes it’s providing benefit, that’s fine, as long as it’s not an excessive amount and that they disclose it because some of those supplements may affect some of the drugs my colleagues use.

We try to get them to tell us if you’re taking 200 milligrams of enzyme CoQ10 today, because I don’t know if that’s important, but it might be.

Mary Ellen Hand:              

Weight loss is really an important indicator, especially unintentional weight loss. So that’s like a red flag to all of us that something may be going on metabolically and needs to be looked into. But the other thing is, at the other end of the spectrum, at the end of life, you want to be sure the food becomes the battleground.  You know, and you can’t make food the battleground, because the only thing the patient can control is what they eat. And so you have to be sure that it’s offered to them. You have to be sure that they’re hydrated. But to make every meal a fight is not healthy either for anyone in the family. 

Dr. DeCamp:       

I like them to be able to if they want to have something, fine.  I mean, they have maybe not so much control over the disease. But if they want to have this that, you know—not saying every day or every meal.

But if you like chocolate chip cookies, by all means, have a chocolate chip cookie.

Susan Leclair:     

Now, in terms of some of the, side effects, like nausea and vomiting, there ways to control that—that are less draconian or less heavily medication derived?  I know there are people who can’t take ondansetron (Zofran), for example, or can’t take certain medications.  How do you handle someone who has got that would be probably chemo-related nausea?  But it could also be radiation-related nausea as well. 

Dr. Paik:                

Well, I think the first thing to mention is that there are a lot of different, and this is one of the great boons that our colleagues in the palliative care world have generated.  There are a lot of different medications to help nausea. And not everything is going to help everyone.

It is worthwhile for trying each one to see if one works.  Sometimes—because the mechanism is different—some patients, their nausea is because of some GI issues.  Some patients, their nausea is, you know, directly from the chemotherapy.  Some patients, it’s anxiety. There’s an anxiety component.  So you have to really kind of listen to the history of the nausea, the timing of the nausea to really tease apart I think what kind of anti-nausea regimen is really going to end up working.  There are other things that we know do help nausea.  Ginger we know helps nausea.  It’s something that patients can take themselves. 

Some patients report that, you know, peppermint tea helps also.  So there are other things that I think are worth trying.  And they may end up helping some patients.  I’ve had patients where acupuncture helps. I’ve had patients where aromatherapy helps.  So you know, for me, anything that helps is worth trying. And, you know, there are various resources that are out there at different institutions to refer patients to for these things. 

Katie Brown:     

We work with a lot of nutritionists, and they are trained with folks who have had cancer and chemotherapy and radiation. And there are certain, you know, smoothies for folks who have the radiation burn certain types of foods that help with fatigue and the metallic taste in the mouth. And a lot of the nutritionists that we work with, the credible ones will work with your doctor just to make sure that, you know, everything is okay that you’re trying with your doctor. And it goes to help for with quality of life for those who can’t eat maybe a normal diet.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on October 19, 2015