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Cancer Information

Nutrition for Cancer Patients

Nutrition for Cancer Patients

​Having a balanced and healthy diet, which provides the essential nutrients and calories is usually not a problem in healthy individuals. However, it becomes challenging for cancer patients as the illness and treatment side effects can reduce one's tolerance to foods. This makes getting the adequate nutritional needs a difficult task. Without adequate nutrition, cancer patients may feel too weak and deemed unfit to continue the treatment.

Eating well during treatment can help cancer patients:

  • Feel better
  • Maintain good energy levels
  • Better tolerate cancer treatment side effects
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Heal and recover faster
  • Maintain a stable weight

During cancer treatment, patients are encouraged to include a variety of foods in their diets, mainly from carbohydrate, protein and fat.

Fruits and vegetables should be included in at least two meals a day as they provide fibre to promote regular bowel movement and essential vitamins and minerals.

Please note: It is important to avoid imposing unnecessary restrictions on your diet as no single food contains all the nutrients you need.

Potential treatment side effects

​What you can try to do

​Loss of appetite

  • Consume small, frequent meals

  • Add unsaturated fats and sugar in your meals to increase calorie intake within the same portion

Nausea and vomiting

  • ​Take your medication early as instructed by your doctor!

  • Choose dry foods to avoid strong aroma, e.g. bread, hard-boiled eggs

​Diarrhea or constipation

​Hydration is key for both! Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of fluids a day, unless advised otherwise by your doctor.


  • Choose isotonic drinks or coconut water to replace electrolytes in your body

  • Avoid oily, greasy and spicy food


  • Drink small amount of prune juice

  • Consume 2 servings of fruits and vegetables daily

Change in taste

  • ​Flavour your food with condiments, e.g. soy sauce and ketchup

  • Try a variety of food including new foods that you do not normally eat

​Sore mouth or mouth ulcers

  • ​Avoid sour and spicy food

  • Take soft and moist foods with gravy and sauces

​Difficulty in swallowing

  • Inform your doctor and follow your speech therapist's recommended food texture modification

  • Eat slowly and chew well

  • Try softer foods like porridge, kuey teow soup, oats, tofu, fish, eggs, ice cream, soy pudding, etc.

​There are many dietary myths surrounding the topic of cancer. They often cause unnecessary confusion and anxiety amongst cancer patients. 

Myth 1: Does sugar feed cancer cells?

​Sugar (glucose) is the main source of fuel for all cells regardless if they are healthy or cancerous. Avoiding sugar or limiting carbohydrate intake does not necessarily reduce cancer cell growth as your body will use the stored protein and fat as fuel instead.

Over time, this results in rapid weight loss and ultimately leading to malnutrition. It is recommended to include carbohydrates in your main meals. Only those with diabetes are advised to avoid refined sugars.

Myth 2: Does red meat cause cancer?

There is strong evidence that excessive consumption of red or processed meat can cause colorectal cancer. However, red meat including beef, pork and lamb can be good sources of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12, hence it is not necessary to avoid completely.

It is recommended that you limit the intake of red meat to 500g (cooked weight) or up to 750g (raw weight) per week and avoid processed meat entirely.

Myth 3: Can juicing help me fight cancer?

Studies have shown that those who consume more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of cancer. Juicing may help you to consume large amount of fruits and vegetables quickly but you can only reap the benefits of nutrients such as fibre by eating them in whole.

There is no scientific evidence to prove that juicing can help to fight or cure cancer, especially once cancer has been diagnosed. It is recommended to consume 2 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for healthy gut movement and vitamins and minerals.

​When cancer patients are facing the following side effects or are confused over what food to eat and avoid:

  • Losing weight
  • Loss of appetite
  • Struggling to manage side effects from cancer treatment
  • Difficulty in swallowing

Our team of experience oncology dietitians can help to:

  • Recommend nutrition strategies to manage treatment-related side effects more effectively
  • Provide tips on how to maintain a healthy body weight or prevent further weight loss
  • Recommend the most suitable nutritional supplements based on your intake
  • Advise on how to prepare meals when texture modification is required
  • Provide evidence-based information and answers to your nutrition-related questions
  • Recommend milk feed volume and frequency while on tube feeding

Feel free to ask your doctor for a dietitian referral to help address all your nutrition-related issues!