Importance of Proper Nutrition for Seniors with Mesothelioma


The U.S. senior population is at risk of a cancer called mesothelioma.  The primary cause is Asbestos exposure and it takes two to five decades to develop. This long latency period explains why the aging population compose the majority of those diagnosed with mesothelioma.

No cure for mesothelioma exists, but some individuals live for years managing the cancer with different therapies. Many mesothelioma specialists prescribe chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and surgery to help manage tumor growth and spreading.

In addition to traditional anticancer treatment, many mesothelioma patients integrate complementary therapies to ease cancer symptoms and treatment side effects. One of the most common complementary therapies is nutritional therapy, which involves eating a healthy, balanced diet to provide the body with the nutrients it needs to repair and recover from cancer treatment.

Eating well when a senior has cancer can improve quality of life in several ways. A healthy diet maintains weight and muscle mass, reduces fatigue and improves energy.

Maintain Weight, Muscle Mass

Undergoing cancer treatment often results in weight loss and reduced muscle mass. Hospital stays, malaise and cancer treatment contribute to loss of weight and muscle. To counteract these losses, senior cancer patients need to eat a sufficient amount of calories and protein.

Most adults need between 1,200 and 2,000 calories a day, depending upon their weight, gender, and activity level. Most individuals need a minimum of 45 to 55 grams of protein a day. Cancer patients should avoid losing weight as it is associated with shorter survival rates. It is important to consume plenty of calories and protein to give the body what it needs to recover.

Lessen Fatigue, Boost Energy

When senior cancer patients haven’t eaten enough, their energy levels drop and they become fatigued and may even feel physically weaker.

The type of food you eat impacts your energy level, as well. Eating too many fried foods, for example, burdens digestion and may cause upset stomach. Conversely, choosing healthy foods energizes the body and makes us feel more capable of performing everyday tasks. Opt for whole foods over processed foods and limit daily intake of sugars and fried foods.

Improve Appetite

Chemotherapy is the most common mesothelioma treatment but it is known to cause nausea. Anti-nausea medication is administered with chemotherapy to reduce the risk of nausea and vomiting. These medicines are effective, but many individuals lose their appetite during chemotherapy.

Eating foods you love can help one cope with loss of appetite. Aromatic foods, such as bacon and freshly baked bread, can stimulate appetite. Adding healthy fats, such as avocado, organic butter and coconut oil, to meals makes them more appealing and improves taste.

Most seniors with cancer shouldn’t worry about gaining weight. Preventing weight loss might improve chances of long-term survival. Eating well can even improve mood. Partner with a caregiver, loved one or neighbor to share recipes and encourage healthy eating. Sharing healthy meals with others encourages good dietary choices and brings loved ones together.

Author bio: Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of integrative medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor, member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine and graduated from Rollins College in Florida.