Nutrition Side Effects & Chemotherapy

Nutrition Side Effects & Chemotherapy


Is there a good website describing the nutrition related side effects from chemo drugs?


Nutritional intake can be affected by symptoms related to cancer as well as the treatments used for cancer. The good news is that not everyone receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer experiences side effects. Chemotherapy affects people in different ways. Your health care team will be able to tell you specifically what to expect and the likelihood of having side effects. Often, side effects get better or go away when chemotherapy is over.

The side effects caused by chemotherapy depend on the type, dose, frequency, and duration that chemotherapy is given. The most common nutrition related side effects include: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, changes in bowel habits, fatigue, changes in taste and smell, mouth sores, and low blood cell counts. The timing of onset for side effects will also vary depending on the individual treatment plan.

The health care team has many ways to prevent and treat side effects to help you heal after each treatment session. It may help to take notes or use a "symptom tracker" for the few days following chemotherapy. This can serve as a reminder to you and as a useful tool for your health care team when having discussions about how best to manage chemotherapy side effects.

There are numerous strategies to help make eating during chemotherapy easier, but there are no specific rules to follow when it comes to nutrition during cancer treatment. A registered dietitian who is Board Certified as a Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (CSO) can assess and tailor a nutrition plan based on your unique situation. The registered dietitian can suggest diet modifications to help manage nutrition related side effects while insuring nutritional adequacy.

The following websites may be useful to provide more information on chemotherapy medications, as well as side effect management from chemotherapy.

The original question and answer were generously donated by Diana Dyer, MS, RD a cancer survivor, registered dietitian, organic garlic farmer, and the author of "A Dietitian's Cancer Story: Information & Inspiration for Recovery & Healing from a 3-time Cancer Survivor.

Question and Answer updated by Lori Wyble, on behalf of the ON DPG

Page Updated: February 2014