Sarcoma: Is there anything your diet can do?

Fruits and vegetables laying on a table

July is Sarcoma Cancer awareness month and as with every cancer diagnosis, patients look for anything they can do to help them along their journey and increase their chances of survival. Although what you eat has no direct link to the diagnosis or survivorship of sarcoma, it can still play a role in how you feel during treatment and recovery. Let us look at how nutrition can fit into your cancer treatment plan.

Dietary changes during treatment are likely to happen, but are largely dependent on the type of treatment you receive. Chemotherapy often comes with side effects like nausea, decreased appetite, and fatigue. If experiencing these side effects, focus on simple foods and eating small amounts five to six times a day. This will allow the stomach to settle while also spacing the food into manageable portions for when you are not feeling like eating much. Be sure to have some protein at every meal, whether in the form of meat, eggs, dairy products, nuts, or other plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, and tofu. This will help limit possible muscle loss during treatment. Some examples of what that would like would be one scrambled egg and a piece of toast, a Greek yogurt with some fruit, a few grapes and a string cheese, a cup of soup, and half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. None of these are too large of a portion, have some protein involved, and are not too spicy, fatty, or sugary to upset your stomach. They are also all easy to make for when feeling tired.

It is also common for mouth ulcers and constipation to be side effects of chemotherapy treatments. For mouth sores, stick to soft foods with added liquids. This will make the effort to chew less work and lessen the pain of getting the food to go down. Often times, drinking a high calorie, high protein supplement shake, whether store-bought or homemade, can be easier than eating many solid foods when the sores are particularly painful. When it comes to constipation, one of the first things to review is how much water you are drinking. Sometimes we get so focused on eating, we miss the needed fluids to keep our bowel regular and our bodies hydrated. It is also possible that by not eating enough or on a regular schedule, the bowels have slowed down. Trying to be consistent with when you eat from day to day, even if the amount is not always the same. Lastly, medications such as anti-nausea medication, pain medication, and sometimes even the chemotherapy itself can cause a slowing of the bowels. If taking any of these and experiencing constipation, talk with your doctor about a daily stool softener to help keep things moving.

However, the first line of treatment for sarcoma is usually surgery. Surgery can put your body under stress while it tries to heal the area in repair. It is important leading up to and after a surgery to eat a healthy, balanced diet. This is a diet full of healthy protein, whole grains and fruits and vegetables and healthy fats. A poor diet, full of unhealthy fats and high in salt and sugar can actually add stress to the body, making healing move slower than it should. Protein, in particular, should be at every meal and snack because at its core are amino acids, which are the building blocks for tissue repair and growth. Chicken, beef, seafood, and beans are also great sources of Zinc, which can help with wound healing as well. Lastly, it is a good idea to focus on natural sources of Vitamin C in your diet from fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli or strawberries. The combination of these should help speed along wound healing. Generally, just eating these nutrients from your diet is enough. Please talk to your doctor or dietitian before considering adding a supplement form of any of these nutrients to make sure that is the right course of action for you.

Overall, it is important to remember that while sarcoma has no direct link to nutrition, your body’s total wellbeing is linked to proper nourishment and hydration. Be kind to your body and focus on eating healthy options to provide nutrients that help your body rather than hinder it. This may vary some depending on the treatment you are receiving. If you need help figuring out that would be best for you while on your cancer journey, please ask your doctor to see one of the Cancer Center Dietitians who can discuss a more customized plan for you.