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Eating Hints for Cancer Patients

Glossary

Anorexia: Loss of appetite for food.

Antiemetic: A drug used to control nausea and vomiting.

Biological therapy (immunotherapy): Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease. This treatment uses products from the body's natural defense system to destroy cancer cells.

Calorie: Calories measure the energy your body gets from food. Your body needs calories as "fuel" to perform all of its functions, such as breathing, circulating the blood, and physical activity. When you are sick, your body may need extra calories to fight fever or other problems.

Carbohydrate: One of the three nutrients that supply calories (energy) to the body. Carbohydrates are needed for normal body function. There are two basic kinds of carbohydrates: simple (sugars) and complex (starches and fiber).

Chemotherapy: The use of drugs to stop cancer cells from growing in size or number.

Dehydration: When the body loses too much water to work well. Severe diarrhea or vomiting can cause dehydration.

Diet: The food you eat, including both liquids and solids.

Dietary fat: One of the three nutrients that supply calories (energy) to the body. Fat also helps the body absorb certain vitamins. Small amounts of fat are necessary for normal body function. Foods high in fat are also high in calories.

Diuretics: Drugs that help the body get rid of water and salt.

Dyspepsia/indigestion: Upset stomach.

Dysphagia: Difficulty in swallowing.

Edema: The buildup of excess fluid within the tissues.

Electrolytes: A general term for the minerals necessary to give the body the proper fluid balance.

Fortified: A food is fortified when extra nutrients are added.

Gastrointestinal (GI): Having to do with the digestive tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.

Glucose: A simple sugar occurring in some fruits and honey; the sugar found in blood.

Immunotherapy: See biological therapy.

Infection: When germs enter the body and produce disease, the disease is called an infection. Infections can occur in any part of the body. They cause a fever and other problems, depending on the site of the infection. When the body's natural defense system is strong, it can often fight the entering germs and prevent infection. Cancer treatment can weaken the natural defense system, but good nutrition can help make it stronger.

Intravenous (IV) feeding: When a person receives some of the nutrients he or she needs through a needle in a vein. IV feeding occurs when a person is unable to eat solid food, such as right after surgery.

Lactose intolerance: Lactose is a sugar in milk. After some types of surgery you may no longer be able to digest lactose easily. This lactose intolerance may go away over time. There are special milk products without lactose.

Malnutrition: When the body receives too few of the essential nutrients.

Minerals: Nutrients required by the body in small amounts such as iron, calcium, and potassium.

Nutrient: The part of the food you eat that the body uses to grow, function, and stay alive. The major classes of nutrients that the body needs are proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, fats, and vitamins.

Nutrition: A three-part process that gives the body the nutrients it needs. First, you eat or drink food. Second, the body breaks the food down into nutrients. Third, the nutrients travel through the bloodstream to different parts of the body where they are used as "fuel." To give your body proper nutrition, you have to eat or drink enough of the foods that contain key nutrients.

Potassium: A mineral the body needs for fluid balance and other essential functions.

Protein: One of the three nutrients that supply calories (energy) to the body. The protein we eat becomes a part of our muscle, bone, skin, and blood.

Radiation therapy: Treatment with high-energy x-rays to kill or damage cancer cells. External radiation therapy is the use of a machine to aim high-energy x-rays at the cancer. Internal radiation therapy is the placement of radioactive material inside the body as close as possible to the cancer.

Registered dietitian: A professional who plans diet programs for proper nutrition.

Sodium: A mineral required by the body to keep body fluids in balance; too much sodium can cause you to retain water.

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN): When a person receives all of the nutrients needed through a needle in a vein. TPN may be used when the mouth, the stomach, or the bowel are sore from cancer treatment.

Vitamins: Key nutrients that the body needs to grow and stay strong. The best sources of vitamins, such as vitamins A, B, and C, are the foods we eat.

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This article was provided by U.S. National Institutes of Health. Visit NIH's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 

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