July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. There are many things that occupy our minds and free time in July but sarcoma is probably not one of them, unless you or a loved one is diagnosed with a sarcoma. You may ask, what is a sarcoma? Is there a special diet I should follow if I have a sarcoma? How can I manage side effects?
Let’s answer these questions.
What is a sarcoma?
A sarcoma is a type of solid tumor cancer. It grows in some of the body’s tissues, like bone or muscle. There are two main types of sarcoma:
- Sarcoma that develops in the bone, called osteosarcoma
- Sarcoma that grows in the soft tissues, called soft tissue sarcoma
Is there a special diet I should follow if I have a sarcoma?
There is no specific meal plan or diet for sarcoma survivors. There are, however, some strategies to help you to deal with the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Nutrition side effects a sarcoma survivor may experience include:
- trouble swallowing
- digestive issues
- taste changes
- bowel changes
- iron-poor blood (iron deficiency anemia)
- unintentional weight changes
Depending on the location of the tumor, you may have difficulty eating food at all. Your body may not be able to access or use the vital nutrients in your meals and snacks. Depending on your treatment plan, you may need additional calories, protein, and/or fluids. This can be a challenge if you can’t eat or don’t have the same appetite as before cancer. A registered dietitian nutritionist who works with cancer survivors is a great resource an RDN can assist you in developing a meal plan to cope with these side effects.
How can I manage treatment side effects?
Here are some tips to help you manage sarcoma and treatment side effects:
- Go small. Mini, frequent meals are best. 2-3 food items every 3-5 hours help support energy and stamina. Your body digests food better in small amounts too. Your risk for heartburn and digestive issues can be somewhat lessened with small meals and snacks.
- Pace yourself. If your appetite isn’t what it needs to be, eat when you are hungry. Eat a hearty snack or grab a milkshake at bedtime. Ask friends to eat with you or make your favorite foods to share. Keep mealtime happy and fun. Good times help foster good appetites.
- Pump up. Add extra calories and protein to what you are already eating and drinking to boost nutrition. Stir in some grated cheese, chopped meats, dried milk powder, salad dressing, sour cream, or protein powder to fortify foods. Don’t let your weight wither food is medicine so view it as part of your treatment plan.
- Roll with digestive issues. Be proactive. Ask your healthcare team now for a plan to treat diarrhea or constipation. These digestive issues can quickly disrupt your appetite and health. Have remedies on hand, especially for diarrhea. Keep the pantry stocked with juices, fruit, high-fiber snacks, and popsicles along with any suggested digestive medications.
- Knock out nausea. Discuss nausea prevention and medication timing. Take your medication as prescribed. Don’t wait for nausea to hit it’s very hard to treat nausea if you wait until you feel poorly. Many physicians suggest you take anti-nausea medications several hours before nausea usually occurs. For some people, that is the day of chemotherapy. For other people, it may be day 2 and day 3 after your treatment. Since you are unique, work out a nausea medication plan with your healthcare team. When nausea hits, eat cool, bland, low-aroma foods and beverages. Use cups with lids and straws.