Individuals living with cancer often experience multiple nutrition-related side effects from cancer treatment, including changes in taste and smell, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and pain during eating. These side effects can profoundly impact nutritional status and quality of life. The purpose of this study was to explore experiences with nutrition-related cancer treatment side effects among cancer patients and their family caregivers, the way they manage such side effects, and the resulting changes in food preferences and behaviors. Structured surveys and in-depth interviews were conducted. Interviews focused on the presence and management of treatment side effects, how those changes influenced food preferences, and the extent to which they interfered with quality of life. Most patients (72%) reported treatment side effects; 61% reported that these side effects impacted their eating and drinking. Common side effects included fatigue (58%), dry mouth (30%), nausea (24%), constipation (20%) and diarrhea (20%). Six overarching qualitative themes were identified: Spiral of side effects; Pain of eating; Burden of eating; Loss of taste/change in taste; Symptom management; and Solutions. The authors conclude with implications for food and nutrition practice—moving beyond traditional recommendations of what to eat or avoid—to consider the overall patient and caregiver experience.
Recommended CitationMilliron, Brandy-Joe; Packel, Lora; Dychtwald, Dan; Klobodu, Cynthia; Pontiggia, Laura; Ogbogu, Ochi; Barksdale, Byron; and Deutsch, Jonathan, "When Eating Becomes Torturous: Understanding Nutrition-Related Cancer Treatment Side Effects among Individuals with Cancer and Their Caregivers" (2022). Institute of Emerging Health Professions Faculty Papers. Paper 14.
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