Click to Return

Back Back

Search WDH

Find a Provider


Robert R. Cawley, D.O.

Dover, NH 03802

Education & Training

Board Certification

See Profile

Search WDH


Diet for Cancer Patients: How to Eat Well During Cancer Treatment



"I lost my taste buds, my ability to produce saliva, and my appetite,” says Jeff Hird, who was treated for tonsil cancer at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. "When people say a bad pizza tastes like eating cardboard, I can totally relate. Any pizza would taste like eating cardboard to me during my cancer treatment. I had trouble producing saliva because of the radiation treatment and my taste buds were shot. So keeping me well-nourished was critical to my overall health, sense of well-being, and recovery.”

Andrea Jackson, Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, was a big part of Jeff’s journey. She helped him keep his calorie count up and stay hydrated, while coordinating his care with other providers and services throughout the hospital.

Andrea met with Jeff at least once a week, usually when he was at the Seacoast Cancer Center for chemotherapy treatments. She monitored his weight, assessed his latest lab work, and addressed any side effects that he was experiencing. “I am a troubleshooter,” says Andrea. “Patients being treated for cancers that affect the larynx are at higher risk for malnutrition. The throat is often inflamed and swallowing can be painful. So, we work together to establish goals that help maintain a healthy weight with appropriate portion sizes and nutritious food choices. It gets very personal with every patient; I take favorite foods, such as casseroles, and come up with ways to modify them in order to concentrate the highest food value in a small volume.”

Andrea understood that the texture of certain foods was critical for Jeff. Strawberries, for example, tasted like eating sandpaper to him, because of their tiny seeds. Yogurt, on the other hand, tasted good. Jeff and Andrea worked together to devise a healthy, appealing and varied diet that would encourage him to swallow and keep those muscles strong. Jeff’s nutritional care was carefully coordinated with other providers and medical services. For example, Andrea made sure that in addition to staying well nourished, Jeff stayed well-hydrated with the help of the Seacoast Cancer Center’s infusion team.

Jeff appreciates the fact that Andrea did not work in isolation: “She worked hand-in-hand with the entire staff, like the endoscopy department when I had an issue with my feeding tube. This level of teamwork was so important to me. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was totally on board.”

Andrea agrees. “This is my ideal job," she says. "I get to do direct patient care and work one-on-one with people like Jeff, while being part of the terrific team here at the Seacoast Cancer Center.”

To learn more about our oncology nutrition services, visit the Seacoast Cancer Center or call (603) 742-8787.

Tagged In: