Anne Ammons, Registered Dietician and Certified Specialist in Oncology for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the Pancreas Center of New York on the importance of nutrition as it relates to pancreatic cancer treatments. “The pancreas is important in terms of nutrition. It plays two important roles with the digestion of food. It produces the enzymes that help digest and breakdown the food, and it also produces insulin which helps regulate your blood sugar.
Often times it’s helpful to have a dietician working alongside you to help both the patient and the caregiver to make adjustments to their diet as they’re going through the different stages of treatment, whether it be chemotherapy, surgery. Because food can often become a battle between patient and caregiver. And when you have a poor appetite, you can’t even think of foods that you would like to eat or like to try. Like helping with weight gain or wound healing, and tolerating the chemotherapies and being able to move forward with treatment. ”
Is there a specific diet for pancreatic cancer?
“So there isn’t a specific diet for pancreatic cancer, it will vary for everybody. The primary goals with nutrition therapy no matter where you are in your treatment plan is to prevent or reverse malnutrition; assist in managing side effects from chemotherapy, radiation, surgery; and helping improve quality of life. ”
Chemotherapy and Diet.
“Often during chemotherapy, the side effects from the medications can cause different issues. Specifically nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, more fatigue. And so often it’s helpful to work with a dietician while going through chemotherapy to make the adjustments that you need to your diet. ”
Surgery and Diet.
“Usually after surgery, one or two days, you’ll be advanced to a clear-liquid diet. And then by the time you leave the hospital four or five days later, it’s usually a low-fiber, low-fat diet. But that’s not a long term diet recommendation. Within four to six weeks after surgery, people are usually back to eating a regular diet. During that time is when you really have to watch for things like gastroparesis. Because sometimes initially after surgery the pain medications can mask the side effects, and then they start to show themselves after a few weeks. “