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Head and Neck Cancer

What Is A Suitable Diet For Cancer Patient?



Which foods are suitable for a person to eat who is having radiation treatment to the head and neck and also going through chemotherapy? The side effecs of these treatments are oral blisters and thrush, thus causing problems with swallowing. Fruits seem to aggravate both side effects.  Any input would be welcome.


A person undergoing this type of treatment for a head and neck cancer does experience much difficulty with chewing and swallowing. And, if thrush becomes an uncontrolled issue, this could also be very painful. Soft, moist foods of a low acidic nature may work best, such as plain yogurt, pudding, cream soups, mashed potatoes, creamy macaroni and cheese, hot cereals, eggs and cold meat salads (tuna salad, chicken salad, etc.). Fruits, especially citrus fruits, and tomato products that are acidic usually cause additional burning and pain.

Be sure to add moisture to foods in the form of gravies, oils, butter, dressings, sour cream and mayonnaise. This extra moisture not only helps food slip down when swallowing, but also concentrates calories to provide the person with extra energy to meet calorie requirements.

It may be easiest for the person to take liquids, so you may want to consider blenderizing foods. Refer to the attached article on guidelines and recipes for Pureed foods. Also, nutritional supplements can help to provide extra calories and protein. Choose a product that is most appealing and tolerable, since Boost, Ensure and even the store brands (such as Equate from Wal-Mart) are all of the same quality. Choose a “Plus” product which contains more calories per 8 ounce serving. Consider blending them with ice cream to make milkshakes or with fruit, juices and ice to make smoothies. Note that foods and liquids may be tolerated better at room temperature.

Related Resources:

Guidelines for Pureed Meals - Proper Nutrition on a Pureed Diet
Recipes for Pureed Foods - Beverages, Shakes and Desserts
Recipes for Pureed Foods - Entrees, Vegetables, and Salads
Recipes for Pureed Meals - Breakfast, Fruit and Yogurt Blends
Recipes for Pureed Meals - Soups

For more information:

Go to the Head and Neck Cancer health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Kimberly  Ortega, MS, RD, LD Kimberly Ortega, MS, RD, LD
Dietician and Oncology Specialist
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University