Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients

Pancreatic Cancer and Nutrition

Observe World Pancreatic Cancer Day by wearing 

Purple for a Purpose

PanCan Ribbon

November 13th is the world pancreatic cancer day. Worldwide there are around 280,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer each year and it is the seventh biggest cancer killer.

This cancer is chronically underfunded category for far too long. This is reflected in the dire survival rates between 3 to 6%, which haven’t improved for more than 40 years.

Pancreatic cancer affects the body’s pancreas, a small organ that plays a large role in digestion. Located deep within the abdomen, the pancreas sits between the stomach and the spine.


The pancreas secretes pancreatic fluid into the small intestine, pancreatic fluid helps digest foods that have been consumed. In cooperation with the small intestine’s digestive juices, the pancreatic fluid breaks down proteins, carbohydrates and fats, along with neutralizing the highly acidic stomach acid. The pancreas also releases hormones that help control blood-sugar level.

Maintaining proper nutrition while fighting pancreatic cancer is essential for the overall health and well-being. Proper nutrition helps enhance the immune system, improve strength, rebuild body tissues and decreases risk of developing infections. Even if you do not feel hungry, it is still important to fuel your body with high-calorie and high protein foods throughout the day.


Diet Tips

Since the pancreas is responsible for digesting foods, pancreatic cancer affects the body’s ability to absorb necessary nutrients from food. If nutrient absorption is affected for too long, the body could enter a state of malnutrition.

Pancreatic cancer also affects the organ’s ability to regulate blood-sugar levels, placing the body at a greater risk for developing diabetes.

Chemo Diet

Before your cancer treatment begins, fill your kitchen with healthy foods. Once treatment starts, you might experience unusual fatigue and weakness, making grocery shopping and meal preparation difficult. If necessary, ask friends and family members to help you prepare meals throughout your treatment. Aim to eat several small meals throughout the day with emphasis on Protein, carbohydrates and fat, in that order. If you simply cannot manage to eat many solid foods, use liquid supplements as meal replacement and/or snacks.

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Low-Fat Foods

What does this really mean

Watching the amount of fat you eat is important. Ounce for ounce, fats contain more calories than carbohydrates or proteins.

For a regular healthy diet, it is recommended that of the total calories eaten, no more than 30% should come from fat. However, certain diseases and medical conditions can make it difficult for the body to tolerate that much fat, examples include chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic Cancer and gallbladder disease. A fat-restricted diet will minimize the unpleasant side effects of fat malabsorption, such as diarrhea , gas, and cramping.

When you’re reading food labels remember: For every 100 calories, if the product has 3 grams of fat or less, it’s a low-fat product. This means 30% or less of the calories come from fat.

There are “fat-free,” “low-fat,” “light “and” reduced-fat” products. Here’s what those terms mean:

  • “Fat-free” foods must have less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving.
  • “Low-fat” foods must have 3 grams of fat or less per serving.
  • “Reduced-fat” foods must have at least 25% less fat than regular versions of those foods.
  • “Light” foods must have either 1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat.

Fat-Restricted Diet Basics

A fat-restricted diet typically limits fat intake to 45-50 grams per day. Fat contains nine calories per gram. So, if you need 2,000 calories per day, this means only about 20%-22% of those calories can be from fat, which translates to about 48 grams of fat per day. The rest should be from carbohydrates and proteins.

For most people, it is possible to meet all nutrient requirements on this diet. However, a supplement may be recommended if fat is very limited or you are on the diet for a long time. Vitamins A , D , E , and K need fat to be absorbed. Your doctor or a dietitian may recommend supplements for these vitamins.

Eating Guide for a Fat-Restricted Diet

The following guide is broken down into categories based on the Choose My Plate website recommendations for healthy eating. It is recommended that you work with a dietitian to determine how many servings of each category you should eat. Here are some general recommendations:

  • The base of your diet should be composed of grains, vegetables, and fruit. Strive to eat foods from these three categories at each meal. Fruits and vegetables should cover half of your plate at each meal. When eating grains, choose foods made with whole grains instead of refined grains.
  • Limit your intake of meat, fish, poultry, and eggs to 6 ounces per day.
  • Consume no more than 3 teaspoons of fat per day.
  • Enjoy low-fat or fat-free sweets or snack foods in moderation.
  • If you enjoy healthy fats (e.g., nuts, olives, and avocados), ask your doctor or dietitian about how you can add these foods into your diet. Since these foods have a lot of fat, they need to be added to your day’s total intake of fat.

Nutrition and Pancreatic Cancer


Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in men and women. Prognosis is poor with a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%. As there is no effective screening modality, the best way to reduce morbidity and mortality due to pancreatic cancer is by effective primary prevention.

A recent study in International Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment suggests that:
  • Fruits (particularly citrus) and vegetable consumption may be beneficial.
  • The consumption of whole grains has been shown to reduce pancreatic cancer risk.
  • Fortification of whole grains with folate may confer further protection.
  • Red meat, cooked at high temperatures, should be avoided, and replaced with poultry or fish.
  • Total fat should be reduced.
  • The use of curcumin and other flavonoids should be encouraged in the diet.
  • There is no evidence for benefit from vitamin D supplementation.
  • There may be benefit for dietary folate.
  • Smoking and high Body Mass Index, have been associated with pancreatic cancer risk.