We need nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids for our bodies to work properly. The best way to get these is by eating a healthy diet. However, some people with cancer aren’t able to get all the nutrients they need from their diet. This may be because of problems with eating or because their bodies aren’t able to absorb the nutrients.
If you’re concerned about your diet or nutrition, ask your doctor or nurse to refer you to a dietitian. They can give you advice on what to eat and may prescribe nutritional supplements for you. If you aren’t able to eat a healthy balanced diet, your doctor may prescribe a daily multivitamin and multi-mineral supplement. This will give you the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the nutrients you need.
If you’re thinking of taking dietary supplements, it’s important to talk to your cancer doctor first.
Some people think that if something is good for you in small amounts, taking larger amounts is even better. But this isn’t always the case. Nutrients, which are essential for our health in small amounts, can be harmful and cause unpleasant side effects when taken in large amounts. And some may interact with, or lessen the effectiveness of, cancer treatments.
Despite a lot of research into cancer and dietary supplements, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that taking them can help treat cancer or stop it from coming back. But, research has found that taking certain supplements could increase the risk of some cancers developing.
Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, coenzyme Q10 and selenium are some of the most commonly taken dietary supplements.
Antioxidants can help to prevent cell damage. Because of this, some doctors have concerns that taking antioxidant supplements during cancer treatment may make cancer treatment less effective. Your cancer doctor may recommend that you don’t take antioxidant supplements during your treatment, unless it’s as part of a clinical trial.