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Eating and drinking during radiotherapy

Nurse and patients talking about cancer

This page tells you about eating and drinking during and after radiotherapy treatment. There is information about


What to eat and drink

You need to have as healthy a diet as possible during radiotherapy. It is important to drink plenty of fluids. Your body needs protein to heal itself and you need plenty of calories. Your radiographer, doctor or nurse can advise you on how to eat well. They can also get a dietician to see you if you are having any problems with eating.

If you are able to eat normal foods it is important to eat high energy and protein foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, full fat milk, beans and pulses.

But if you don't have much appetite you can add extra energy and protein to your diet, without actually having to eat more food. You can have high energy drinks as milkshakes or soups. And you can add high protein powders to your normal food. Your doctor or nurse can prescribe these for you.


Tips for eating well

If you are having problems eating, try

  • Having small snacks through the day rather than large meals – eat little and often
  • A soft or liquid diet if swallowing is difficult
  • Avoiding strong alcohol – it can aggravate a sore mouth or a sensitive digestion
  • Ask staff about potential problems and how to try to prevent them before you start your treatment if possible
  • Tell the radiotherapy staff about any problems you have with eating or drinking – they can arrange for you to talk to a dietician
  • Ask the staff if you need any food supplements

If you have problems

If you are having difficulty eating enough, you can eat high fat foods. There are more calories in fat than in protein or carbohydrate. Remember that you may lose a little weight during radiotherapy. But if you are having any problems with eating tell the staff involved in your treatment.

There is information about managing diet problems in the section about coping physically with cancer.

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Updated: 4 July 2012