Balanced nutrition is vital for pancreatic cancer patients. The pancreas aids in digestion and regulates blood glucose levels, so pancreatic cancer is likely to affect the way your body uses food. To anticipate and prevent potential problems or to diagnose and deal with them early, it’s important to meet with a dietitian from Medical Nutrition Therapy Services when you begin your cancer treatment.
Tumors of different types and in different locations can affect digestion differently. Your dietitian will evaluate you and create an individualized plan to help minimize nutrition-related complications of your cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer and Enzymes
Having an exocrine pancreatic tumor or having treatment for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) may impair your body’s ability to produce or release digestive enzymes. This may cause weight loss, nausea, diarrhea, and indigestion. Other common symptoms of reduced enzyme function include painful gas, bloating, and pale or fatty bowel movements. If you develop digestive problems like these or your symptoms get worse, be sure to tell your doctor.
Insulin and Blood Sugar
Insulin production may also be impacted by a pancreatic tumor. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Exocrine pancreatic cancer and some pancreatic NETs can lead to abnormal blood sugar levels; in some cases, this can mean hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and increased risk of diabetes.
Fortunately, treatments are available, including supplementation of pancreatic enzymes and insulin, if needed. Your diet also matters. The things you choose to eat can make other treatments even more effective.
Meet with a Dietitian
Seeking nutritional help at the outset of treatment may help increase your awareness of your digestive function, improve your ability to eat, minimize side effects, promote healing, and improve your quality of life. Depending on your treatment, your nutritional needs may change over time. In addition to meeting with a dietitian at the beginning of your treatment, you may want to meet with the dietitian again at different points.
To make an appointment with a dietitian at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, let your team know you are interested or call (206) 288-1148.