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Holistic Cancer Support and Care

From nutrition to emotional support, these 6 people can help you during cancer treatment

Your Dietitian: The Importance of Nutrition in Cancer Support

If you’re getting cancer treatment, good nutrition may be the last thing on your mind. You may be too busy and too tired to bother with a balanced diet. Besides, cancer and its treatment can make eating difficult. You may have nausea, diarrhea, mouth sores, and a loss of appetite.

But eating a healthy diet is even more important when you’re undergoing the emotional and physical stress of cancer treatment. A dietitian can advise you on easy ways to get the nutrients you need. Some people undergoing cancer treatments are prone to rapid weight loss. A dietitian can offer vital cancer support in these cases. He or she can make sure that your diet is giving you the calories and protein you need to keep your weight up.

Most hospitals have dietitians on staff. If you’re interested in seeing a dietitian or nutritionist, ask your doctor or nurse. You could also see a dietitian outside of the health center, but look for someone who is an expert at providing cancer support.

Your Physical Therapist: Preserving Strength During Cancer Care

Cancer -- and its treatment -- can really knock you off your feet. But if you’re laid up and inactive for too long, you rapidly lose muscle strength. So consider adding a physical therapist to your cancer support team. Muscle weakness can delay your recovery and make it more difficult. Physical therapists can help you keep up your strength during treatment and get you back up to speed afterward.

Cancer and cancer treatment can also cause physical changes that you’ll need to adjust to. For instance, if you have surgery, you may need special exercises to rebuild your muscle strength afterward. If your doctor doesn’t suggest physical therapy, ask about it. Also, check to see if your health insurance covers physical therapy during or after cancer treatment.

The Key to Cancer Support: Asking for Help

Of course, you may not see all of these experts. Depending on your case, you may only need to see a few. But if you’re about to start treatment -- and are feeling alone and afraid -- it’s important to know the types of cancer support that are out there if you need them.

“Remember that you’re not alone,” says Burstein. “My patients always tell me that the more you seek out help, the better help you get.” All you have to do is ask.

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Reviewed on April 23, 2009
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