Diet and chemotherapy

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After a diagnosis of any cancer it would be very wise to generally improve the diet. Along with other lifestyle issues such exercise and giving up smoking, scientific evidence has showed that a healthy diet  is likely to help to:

In general no specific diet is required unless you have certain specific drugs such a procarbazine have a persistently low white blood count or have a specific symptom develops such as:-

As a rule it is generally advisable to avoid foods which may cause food poisoning - cheap take away's, be more careful eating out and ensure all food have not passed their self life and avoid foods if there are doubts concerning their storage. Some chemotherapy regimens, usually for lymphoma and leaukaemia or following high dose chemotherapy required a dietary change to avoid food which are more likely to contain infective materials. These food are only a guide and it is still important to maintain and adequate level of nutrition, depending on what patients are able to eat and what they fancy. The risk of infection also depends on how foods are prepared:-


Dietary change - if prolonged neutropenia expected during chemotherapy (neutrophil count <0.5)


Foods allowed 

Foods  best  to  avoid

Freshly cooked hot meat/ poultry and vacuum packed cold meats / poultry.*
Raw or partly cooked meat / poultry /cold meats, e.g. chicken, pork, salami (sold loose), pate and pork pies.
Freshly cooked fish*.
Tinned fish or tinned meat *.
Ready made cook / freeze or cook / chill meals, (Marks and Spencer only )*.
Shellfish, e.g. prawns, shrimps, crab.
Raw fish, e.g. sushi.
Hard boiled eggs or well cooked omelette and scrambled eggs.
Products containing uncooked eggs, e.g. home-made
mayonnaise, meringue, mousse, cheesecake.
Pasteurised / sterilised / UHT milk*.
Unpasteurised milk-cows, goats or sheep.
Milk Products
Tinned evaporated / condensed milk *.
Skimmed milk powder in cooking.
Baby milks -ready to feed.
Butter / margarine -pre -packed portions (in hospital ).
Hard cheeses (cooked or individually  wrapped)
Processed cheese (individually wrapped )
e.g. Dairylea triangles,  plain Philadelphia.
Pasteurised youghurt / fromage fraise and dessert*.
Ice craem -individually wrapped portions from major
producers e.g. Walls, Lyons Maid.
Milk Products
Soft and ripened cheese eg  cottage cheese, cream cheese, Brie, Camembert. Blue cheeses, eg Stilton, Danish Blue .           
Large tubs / jars of cheese spread .
Live yoghurt, fromage frais. Artificial cream / topping.
Bread - Cereals
Bread / chappatis / pitta .
Breakfast cereals, eg cornflakes, branflakes,Weetabix,
Porridge. Pasta / Rice .
Bread -Cereals
Cereals containing nuts and dried fruit, eg museli.
Fruit and Veg
Cooked or tinned fruit and vegetables, potato.
Well cooked pulses, eg baked beans, lentils.
Fruit and Veg
Fresh raw fruit.
Dried fruit.
Fresh raw salad vegetables,e.g.tomatoes, lettuce, 
cucumber, coleslaw, potato salad.
Pudding, Cakes
Freshly baked / tinned puddings* and cakes e.g.rice pudding, custard sauce, sponge, fruit cake, ready prepared custards*.
Jellies - made up in individual portions.
Individual tubs of mousse, fruit fools, jelly, fresh cream trifle.
Pudding, Cakes
Cakes and puddings decorated with dried fruit.
Puddings made with cold milk,e.g.Angel Delight,
instant whips..


Sweets - Snacks
Jam / marmalade - individual portions whilst in hospital.
Sweets, e.g. boiled sweets, toffees, mints, plain or milk 
chocolate - individual double wrapped portions, e.g. 
Funsize Mars, Penguin, Kitkat, Club (well known brands).
Soups, tinned * / dried / home-made.
Crisps - individual portions.
Dry roasted peanuts - individually wrapped .
Crackers / biscuits - individual portions .
Sweets - Snacks
Large packets of biscuits open to the air.
Cream filled chocolates, or coffee creams.
Chocolate containing nuts or dried fruit, e.g. Bounty,
Fruit & Nut, Snickers.


Tap water- allow tap to run ideally for 3 minutes first.
Tea / coffee / Maxpax drinks.
Canned / UHT tetra pak drinks e.g. fruit juice, squash*.
Canned fizzy drinks -pour into a glass.
Alcohol - (speak to your doctor first), e.g. wine, spirits,
tins of  beer, cider, lager.
Bottled water.
Ice - only from the ward.
Large carton / bottles of sqash or fruit juice.
Draught and bottled beer, cider and lager .
Special Products 
Complan / Build up, made up and drunk in less than two hours.
Ensure Plus* , Fortisip*, Maxijul *, liquid Polycal*.
Maxijul powder - sachets or small tubs.
Special Products
Spicy dishes - e.g. curry, chilli .
Jars or cans of baby  food *.
Uncooked  herbs and spices, e.g. pepper.
* -  To be opened, refrigerated and eaten within 24 hours.

Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.

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