Cancer and Diet

  • Health Insurance

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Cancer is a critical illness that can develop at any time, regardless of age. Research shows us that 1 in 9 Indians will develop cancer during their lifetime.[1] If you or anyone you know has been diagnosed with the disease, the first emotion you may feel is panic. This is understandable, but the good news is that modern medicine has evolved significantly, making most kinds of cancer treatable and curable.

But in case of a cancer diagnosis, getting the right treatment is only one half of the picture. It is also important to eat right and get all the vitamins and minerals your body requires during such a crucial period. In this article, we will explore the dietary tips and restrictions you need to follow in case of a cancer diagnosis.

To understand how and why food matters when you have cancer, it is essential to get to know what cancer is, in the first place. So, let us begin at the basics.

What is cancer?

The human body is made up of trillions of cells. These cells divide and grow as and when the body requires them to. Normally, this happens in an orderly and organised manner. But sometimes, cells in some parts of the body may grow, and then they don't stop dividing. This uncontrolled division is where cancer begins.

Contrary to popular opinion, cancer is not one single disease. It is a group of over 100 diseases. Cancers can develop in almost any part of the body. Over the years, modern medical professionals have classified cancers into four types –

  • Carcinoma

    Carcinomas are cancers that begin in the skin or in the tissues that cover the internal organs in the body. Some common examples of carcinomas include lung cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.

  • Sarcoma

    Sarcomas are cancers that develop in the body's supporting and connecting tissues. This includes tendons, bones and blood or lymph vessels.

  • Leukaemia

    Leukaemia is cancer that develops in the body's blood cells. More commonly, it is known as blood cancer.

  • Lymphoma

    The lymphatic system is made up of lymph and lymph vessels. Cancers that develop in the lymph are called lymphomas.

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, the doctor typically diagnoses the type and the stage of cancer, based on how far the cancer has spread. The lower the stage, the easier the treatment will be. Depending on the cancer type and its staging, the treatment protocol is determined. It can involve either surgical removal of the cancer tumour, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these methods.

What to eat when you have cancer?

The treatments we have for cancer today are often effective at destroying the cancer cells in the body. However, in the process, they may also come with some temporary yet adverse side effects, such as nausea, weight loss, fatigue, diarrhoea, anaemia and hair loss, among other things.

These symptoms will ease out after the cancer treatment is complete. However, during the treatment period, it is essential to eat right, so you can keep your body as healthy as possible. Since your appetite may change on a daily basis, you need to keep your cancer diet plan a bit flexible too.

Let's take a look at what you should eat depending on your appetite and your body's reaction to the medications during the cancer treatment phase.

  • Scenario 1: You have a low appetite

    You may not be very hungry on some days, but you still need to eat to give your body the nutrition it needs to heal. On such days, you can use the tips given below.

    • Eat many smaller meals throughout the day instead of fewer large meals.
    • Set an alarm to remind yourself to eat every 2-3 hours, so you don't skip a meal.
    • Distract yourself with TV or a book while eating, so you aren't affected by the lack of appetite.
    • Eat more fruits and raw vegetables, so you don't have to spend time cooking a meal.
  • Scenario 2: You are very hungry

    On good days, you may have a healthy appetite. Here is what you need to do then.

    • Avoid giving into cravings for junk food like pizza, aerated drinks or fried foods.
    • Eat foods high in fibre, like grains, nuts, and vegetables.
    • Drink some water before each meal, so you can avoid overeating.
    • Eat a small portion of healthy fats from avocados or similar sources.
  • Scenario 3: You are suffering from constipation

    Some cancer treatments may cause constipation in certain patients. If you have this problem, here is how you can tweak your cancer diet.

    • Drink hot beverages like herbal teas.
    • Drink lots of water
    • Eat fibre-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts.
    • Remember to steer clear of vegetables that may cause gas and bloating though.
  • Scenario 4: You are suffering from diarrhoea

    In some patients, cancer treatments can cause diarrhoea. Here is what you can do to work around this issue.

    • Avoid eating too many dairy-based foods.
    • Reduce your intake of sugary and greasy foods.
    • Eat more baked or boiled foods.
    • Drink coconut water and diluted fruit juices to keep your body's electrolyte levels high.
  • Scenario 5: You feel tired all day

    Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of cancer. Occasionally, cancer treatments can also leave you feeling exhausted and drained. On days when you are too tired, here are some dietary tips to help.

    • Rely on healthy yet easy-to-make foods like salads.
    • If you have friends and family to help you out, you can have some soups and other comfort food as you relax and rejuvenate.
    • Eat fruits to get a healthy dose of carbs and natural sugars that can give you more energy.

The importance of a cancer insurance plan

Your diet is a crucial part of recovery if you are diagnosed with cancer and are undergoing treatment. The costs of maintaining a healthy diet can be quite steep, particularly if you are focusing on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, as you should.

In addition to this, cancer treatment can be expensive. When you factor in the cost of surgery, chemotherapy, scans, consultation fees and hospital room rent charges, the bill can run into lakhs of rupees. If your cancer diagnosis comes at a point in time when you are financially not prepared for such a contingency, it can have an adverse effect on your savings and investments.

A cancer insurance plan can help you here. It covers the costs of cancer treatment and makes it easier for you to enjoy a healthy cancer diet, thanks to the payouts you will receive upon a cancer diagnosis.

Wondering how a cancer insurance plan works? Let's find out.

How does a cancer plan work?

A cancer cover is a special kind of critical illness cover designed exclusively for cancer diagnosis. In case the policyholder is diagnosed with any major or minor stage cancer that is covered by the cancer plan, the insurance provider pays out the benefits guaranteed2 under the plan, as per the policy's terms and conditions.

This payment can be an upfront, lump sum amount, or it can be a monthly payout. The ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan, for instance, offers both these options to the policyholder, depending on the stage of the cancer diagnosed.

The payouts can be used by the policyholder to pay for the cancer treatment and to take care of any medical bills. The benefits can also be used to pay for any special cancer diet that the patient needs to follow.

Here are the top reasons you should invest in a cancer plan today.

  • You get benefits for minor and major stage cancers.
  • A wide range of cancers are covered by cancer plans.
  • You can rest easy knowing that your expenses and medical costs are taken care of.
  • You also get tax benefits3 on the premiums you pay for your cancer cover.

Conclusion

So, as the popular saying goes - You are what you eat. The food you consume can determine how healthy you are, what illnesses you develop, and how your body functions. And while it is definitely important to eat healthy so you can stay fit, it is even more important to eat right when you are ill or unhealthy.

Your diet is particularly crucial when you are suffering from any major illness like cancer. So, even as your cancer cover takes care of your medical bills, your diet should be good enough to take care of you.

[1] https://ascopubs.org/doi/10.1200/GO.20.00122#:~:text=The%20projected%20incidence%20of%20patients%20with%20cancer%20in%20India%20among,of%20age%3B%20Table%202).
2 Provided all due premiums are paid.
3 Tax benefits are subject to changes in tax laws. Kindly consult your financial advisor for more details.
ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan(UIN: 109N103V03) is a traditional non participating health insurance plan
ADV/5/22-23/330

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