Receiving a medical diagnosis such as cancer can be scary, overwhelming, and often confusing. Learning about the condition and the medications used to treat it can help make it more manageable.
Cancer is not just one disease. There are many different types and forms of cancer, and it can start in any place in the body. In all types of cancer, cells begin to divide uncontrollably and start crowding out normal, healthy cells. When the healthy cells become crowded by cancer cells, it can become difficult for them to work the way they should. This can make it challenging to carry on with every day activities.
Fortunately, cancer can be treatable for many people. There are a variety of treatment options available, many specifically made for certain types of cancer. You may hear these medications called “chemotherapy,” “targeted drugs,” or “biologics.” Chemotherapy is often used to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells or help keep tumors from returning. Targeted drugs and biologics work on the genes within certain cancer cells, stopping them from working correctly and continuing to multiply. Historically, most cancer drugs were given through an IV, but now, many newer cancer drugs are pills or capsules that can be taken by mouth. This allows patients to take the medication in the comfort of their own home. Like many medications, there are a variety of side effects that can occur from taking anti-cancer drugs. Nutrition plays a key role in managing the side effects of both cancer medications and the cancer itself. This section of A Healthier You is designed to help patients nutritionally manage the most common side effects of anti-cancer drugs.
Anti-cancer drugs, as well as cancer itself, can cause a wide variety of issues leading to nutritional concerns. To better understand cancer, common side effects, and how nutrition is affected, see the table below for more details.