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Breast Cancer: Diet Tips

You may feel tired and smells may nauseate, but it's important to keep your energy up during treatment. Here are some suggestions.

What helps when I have mouth sores or dry mouth from chemo?

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can reduce your saliva and cause dry mouth. Expect mouth sores or tender gums as well, because treatment pummels your immune system. Here are a few tricks that may help.

When you have dry mouth, keep water by your side and take small sips to help you swallow and talk. Sweet, tart foods like lemonade help create more saliva -- but don't try this if you have mouth sores. Also, you may find that adding gravy or sauces to food will help you swallow bites more easily.

Some women have found that sucking on a peppermint, ice chips or a Popsicle during chemo can help keep mouth sores from developing.

If you do get mouth sores, frozen smoothies or yogurt may be easy to eat. Usually, soft, cool foods help. Sucking on ice chips also feels good. Don't be shy about pureeing your food in a blender before you eat; you need all the nutrition you can get! And try drinking warm broth through a straw.

Make sure to call your doctor if you develop persistent mouth sores. There's a concoction called "magic mouthwash" that your doctor can prescribe (it usually contains Benadryl, Maalox, or Mylanta, and an anti-ulcer medication called sucralfate or a pain reliever called lidocaine). You can also ask your doctor about anesthetic lozenges or sprays to numb your mouth while you eat.

Is my weight going to change a lot?

Most women expect to lose weight during treatment. Instead, you may find that you gain about 15 to 20 pounds. It turns out that treatments for breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer often cause some weight gain.

This is another reason to try to eat well during treatment. If you haven't gone through menopause, you probably will have by the time you end treatment. Your metabolism may slow down slightly. Healthy substitutes for comfort foods (like mashed sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes) and appetizer portions (a cup of soup instead of a bowl) will help keep your stomach settled without blowing your waistline.

The time to plan how you're going to handle food during treatment is now. Let's face it, during chemo you may feel too tired to do anything vigorous. You may also feel overwhelmed by your emotions. Women who gain weight often say they wished someone had emphasized this risk before treatment. So we're passing this insight along to you now. Just so you know.

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