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Nutrition during Cancer Treatment

Implementation

All patients are weighed regularly (1–2 times each week). This is a prerequisite to being able to register changes in the nutritional status.

Varied and healthy food contributes to the growth of new cells and enhances the immune system.

  • Fruit, berries and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, which contribute to enhances the immune system and contributes to keeping the digestive system working.
  • Fish, shellfish, poultry, meat, eggs, cheese, milk, beans and nuts are rich in proteins, which are the building blocks of new cells.
  • Bread, rice, pasta, porridge and breakfast cereals supplement the diet with proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Oil, margarine, butter, mayonnaise products, nuts, cream, heavy cream, desserts etc. are fat and energy rich products, which are important to maintain the energy intake at a satisfactory level.
  • Cancer patients also have a requirement for plenty of fluid, especially during treatment, to discharge waste.

Often, the patients must have an individually adjusted diet. In the event of lack of appetite, it is generally more important that you eat (enough food) than what you eat (the right food). It is beneficial to have small portions and for the food to be as abundant in energy as possible. These patients will often have a need for 6–8 small meals everyday to obtain their energy requirements.

Enrichment of food and drink is done in order to increase the energy content of the food product without increasing the volume. Full-fat products such as full-fat milk, cream, butter, heavy cream, mayonnaise, sugar, honey, eggs and cheese etc. are primarily used. Enrichment powders from pharmacies may also be used. Some powders are nutritionally complete, i.e. they contain everything the body requires in terms of energy and nutrients, while others only contain pure energy (carbohydrates, fat and/or protein). 

Tube feeding

Tube feeding is given continuously with a low drop rate or by interval/bolus administration (individually adapted meals with high drop rate).

When the patient's energy and fluid requirements are fulfilled, it will be decided whether the patient will be given bolus or continuous supply at night, in order to increase mobilization during the day. However, this requires that the patient does not have diarrhea, nausea or other complaints associated with the supply of nutrition.

For a running feeding tube:

  • Every 4-8 hours, it should be aspirated in order to monitor the gastric emptying. This applies especially to immobile and weak patients.
  • Weekly or more often, the nutrition program/fluid balance, evaluation, edema control, blood tests (albumin, K, Mg, P, blood glucose) should be monitored weekly or more often.
  • Every 4-6 weeks, the tube should be changed. Alternate the uses of nostrils avoid irritation in the nose through prolonged feeding.

Experience shows that the use of infusion pumps causes fewer side effects and ensures correct volume and rate.

Bolus supply

Initiation of tube feeding with bolus supply is only recommended

  • if the patient been taking any food until the last 24 hours
  • if the patient is taking some food and requires tube feeding for additional nourishment

It is recommended to use pumps for bolus supply for the first 1–2 days.

Continuous supply

If the patient cannot tolerate bolus supply (vomiting, abdominal discomfort, nausea, diarrhea), reverting to continuous supply should be considered.

Tube feeding should always be administered continuously to very malnourished patients or if the tube end is located distally to the pylorus.

Parenteral nutrition

If the patient has a satisfactory nourishment status, begin with 100% of the requirement. If the patient is seriously malnourished, start with 80 % of the requirement and increase slowly to 100% over the course of three days.

The patient must be monitored closely in relation to

  • electrolytes (potassium, phosphate and magnesium).
  • infusion rate.
  • twenty-four hour urine sample and fluid balance should be calculated daily.
  • glucose in the blood and urine, and electrolyte in the blood should be examined daily at the start.
  • liver tests, kidney function tests and triglycerides should be taken examined at least once every week.

For TPN treatment longer than 1 month, vitamins and trace elements should be examined.

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