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Dietary Changes

Posts: 12
Joined: Nov 2012

Hi everyone! I've just been diagnosed with Anal cancer, so I'm at the beginning of my journey. I have my first appointment with the radiologist next week. I'm wonder how many of you survivors made dietary changes. I have heard a lot about cutting out dairy and refined sugars/carbs and increasing your veggies - especially dark leafy greens (juicing) and also eating quality protein as a preventative measure. What are your thoughts.

Posts: 475
Joined: Mar 2011

During your radiation treatments and afterward you may want to limit your fiber intake as diarrhea may be a side effect of the radiation-veggies were a no no. I had this issue and ate little fiber products during this time.

Posts: 12
Joined: Nov 2012

Thanks Mike!
What about now. Do you eat the same way you did prior to getting your cancer diagnosis?

Posts: 1122
Joined: Aug 2012

Bc. Sorry to hear about your diagnosis. During and for a period afteryour treatment, your diet will be very limited due to diarreah. Interestingly, what I have found is that the medical establishment has little to say about diet. There are several supposed anti cancer diets out there. I now eat very little sugars at all. Also, I do not eat processed foods, meats, no genetically modified foods, no food colorings, no artificial sweeteners, no red meat, nothing with any preservatives or food additives. I try to avoid chemicals in food, period. Whole foods only. I bought a book by Dr. Fuhrman, entitled, "Super Immuniity". It is worth reading. I still eat some fish and organic chicken, but mostly a plant based diet.

The dietician at the hospital told me she was only allowed to discuss evidence based diets, and so had to stick to the food pyramid.

Good luck with your treatments!

Posts: 475
Joined: Mar 2011

I do not have any diarrhea but have multiple BMs daily. My normal BM habit before treatment was 1-2 times per day. It is no 3-4 times daily. I eat whatever I like now. I am 3 years 10 months post treatment. Lettuce seems to the only food that makes me have more BMs than normal. The first two years after treatment was when I had to be careful what I ate.

geneviasue's picture
Posts: 89
Joined: Oct 2012

BC, I'm on Day 14 of treatment..

I hate that your diagnosis brought you here but Im glad you found this site. Trust me, you have found the perfect location for information from current sufferers and survivors of the exact same cancer you have. Don't be shy moving forward and reach out whenever you need to.

Diet? I was a fruit/greens smoothie drinker before my diagnosis and I stopped because of the fiber bulk you get from that. I learned in week 1 that diarrhea is common and was daily for me. My radiologist put it this way. You don't want to get yourself "going" to the point you can't stop it for days. So, I don't eat much fiber at all. Check out what is called a Low Residue Diet..it's what my medical team suggested for me.

I've also removed milk, nuts, citrus and high acid foods like tomato or tomato based products. That really helped me.

Take care and God Bless!!


Posts: 115
Joined: Aug 2012

My radiation oncologist told me to have a meat and potato diet, and that's essentially what I did. I only ate protein and carbs...no fruits or vegetables. You have to think the opposite way of how you view a healthy diet. A "regular" healthy diet is NOT healthy during treatment.

Again, I stuck with meat and carbs, including mac and cheese. Maybe I was lucky, maybe it was the medication, but I never had diarrhea. The pain medication balanced things out.

Now...when I finished treatment and while taking pain medication, I've had constipation. I definitely suggest a stool softener for post treatment and a laxative. I've needed both.

You're in a good place on this site and will get a lot of support. I wish you all the best. Also, I'll paste a list of things you might want to consider getting before you start treatment or start feeling the effects.

undergarments (ended up not needing them, but some folks do)
L-glutamine (15 grams twice a day) -- helps with radiation burns
bed pads
plastic trash cans
ice packs (I did not need)
biotene mouthwash, toothpaste, gum
Dermoplast - spray to ease pain
domeboro soaks (Domeboro Astringent Solution)
oatmeal baths
lip balm
zyrtec - a lifesaver for me...totally stopped the itching.
protein drinks (Premier are the lowest price for highest amount of protein)
ginger tea (for nausea)
Ginger Ale
Water, water, water

To prevent mouth sores:
• eat/suck on ice starting 15 minutes before your chemo infusion. Continue throughout the infusion. The coldness prevents the chemo from damaging the mouth. This really works!
• Also, gargle several times a day with a mixture of salt and baking soda. This will also help prevent mouth sores.

Jo Joy's picture
Jo Joy
Posts: 40
Joined: Oct 2012

I just wanted you to know that this list was a God send to me. I was able to be proactive about what was taking place and my doctors did not give me all of these tips. The ice suggestion was listed in the drug info that the chemotherapy oncologists nurse gave me to read WHILE I was being infused. The doc nor the nurses gave me that heads up ahead of time. Can't do much about getting ice when you are strapped to a chair by an IV now, can ya?

I want to add a strong laxative to the list. Chemo made me so constipated! I didn't want to tip the scale very far so at first I took fiber pills, pink pills, ate salads and veggies whenever I could, drank gallons and gallons and gallons of water... no effect. (Still keep drinking the water.)

Make sure you have a thermometer to monitor your temp if you start feeling like you are coming down with something.

And something that I have found quite helpful is watching comedies. This helps keep my head in a good place and helps keep everthing manageable. I told my friends the day I got "the call" that I was going to laugh my way through this, even when it might get tough to even smile. Laughter releases hormones in your brain that makes you feel better and also dulls the pain.

mp327's picture
Posts: 4119
Joined: Jan 2010

I would have to second the advice about limiting fiber. I had severe diarrhea during treatment and for some time afterwards, primarily because I was trying to eat "healthy"--lots of fruits and veggies. Bad idea! I think during chemo, you eat what you can get down, at least that was my experience. My appetite took a nosedive and there were very few things that appealed to me during the last couple of weeks of treatment. My oncologist told me to eat whatever I had a taste for and not worry about nutrients, calories, blah, blah, blah. I had to do that, as I was losing weight at a rapid pace and got down to 93 pounds, at which point he threatened to hospitalize me. It was quite a few months before I could safely eat something such as salad or raw fruits and veggies. I had to introduce them back into my diet gradually. Now I eat whatever I want. So the bottom line is try to limit fiber, drink plenty of water, get protein with each meal or snack, and eat whatever you can get down or get to stay down if nausea is a problem. This is all based on my own experience. Perhaps yours will be better.

Posts: 12
Joined: Nov 2012

This has been a great help. So far Im just waiting for the final results from my biopsies and to find out what the exact treatment will be. My original biopsy came back as AIN and my gyno was sure it was invasive. Went for surgery for possible removal and/or biopsies. The surgeon said he was unable to remove it without affecting the sphincter and the results came back as inconclusive and he strongly felt that it was invasive. He was going to bring up the case at a conference of specialists and get an outside pathologist for a 2nd opinion. Bottom line is surgery is apparently not an option. I was supposed to have the results one week ago tuesday. I call everyday and seem to be getting no where. They have booked me in with the radiologist on thursday but it would be really nice to know what Im up for. Im assuming it will be the chemo/radiation combo. The suspense is killing me though. Hopefully, I will have some answers tomorrow.
Thanks again everyone!
P.S. Why plastic garbage cans?

Dog Girl
Posts: 100
Joined: Sep 2010

BC3331, You are so right; the waiting is one of the hardest things. It took one week after my biopsy to get a definitive answer even though my colorectal dr. is the one who initially found the tumor and told me he thought it was cancer. My tumor (4 cm) was also on my spincter muscle and I did the Nigro protocol which is the fairly std tx of chemo/rad.

While I really didn't have issues with nausea (started feeling a little queasy one time and popped an anti-nausea pill and it went away), but I'm guessing the plastic buckets (small) are to have around the house (bedroom/den; whereever you are going to spend time) in case you get sick. I remember being sick as a kid and my Mom having a plastic waste basket with water and pine sol in it so I didn't even have to get out of bed. The pine sol helped kill the smell somewhat.

I hope you weather your tx well. Look through the various posts on this site to get an idea of what to possibly expect (most everyone gets some of the side effects, but hardly anyone gets all of the side effects) and some tips on how to cope. The tx is not fun, but it is fairly quick and highly effective. Someone on this site came up with the slogan we've adopted; "Weeks for years." (Who did come up with that? I would love to give credit where credit is due.) You'll have a few rough weeks, but will hopefully have years of NED (No Evidence of Disease) in your future.

Posts: 1122
Joined: Aug 2012

I am sorry you are going through this. I am wondering what the delay would be and if you are at a reputable cancer center? I just want to stress to you how very important it is to be treated by a team of experts at a very reputable hospital. It really matters in terms of outcomes. When I was diagnosed, I had family members researching cancer hospitals and doctors, my treatment began one week after diagnosis. The biopsy results came back in 4 days. I live in a state that does not have a reputable cancer hospital. I first started out with the surgeon who took the biopsy, and quickly realized that my treatment in my home state was going to be substandard. When dealng with cancer, make sure you have an excellent team. It is so important.

Stay positive. This cancer is very treatable and the treatment is pretty short in duration.

lizdeli's picture
Posts: 567
Joined: Jul 2009

Well, my diet during chemo was rather unusual. I didn't have much of an appetite and was losing too much weight. I'm not a big person to start with. The nutrionist really got on my case. She basically told me to eat whatever I could handle regardless of whether I thought it was "healthy or not". Okay, so I lived on McDonald's cheeseburgers (no ketchup, no pickles), McDonald's french fries, vanilla ice cream, Ginger Ale, and homemade Greek cookies that my husband's family sent to me regulary. Not a healthy diet at all. But that's all I could handle and tolerate. After treatment I began to get my taste buds back. Salad was a no-no. I could not eat lettuce for at least 9 months after treatment. For the first month after treatment I ate macaroni and cheese for lunch - I tolerated it so I ate it. I slowly introduced vegables and fruit. Steaks were too heavy. Okay fast forward to period of new normalcy. I now eat salads, yogurt, fruit, veggies. No processed meats, little sugar. Limited beef, some chicken and fresh fish.

I should not be used as role model for my diet during chemo. But it worked for me when I combined it with the anti nausea meds. Important: dont' wait till you need them, assume you will. I waited and before long I regretted it. Started taking them and it made a big difference.

Everyone is different. Do what you need to do to get through it - and you will get through it. During treatment the focus should be on keeping your blood counts up, getting rest when your body tells you it's tired, staying HYDRATED, avoiding infection and staying strong - which means you will need food. Most importantly remembering that this is a cancer with a high cure rate.

We will all be here to help you through it.
Wishing you strength and healing,

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