Pancreatic cancer patients and caregivers can face stress when it comes to the nutritional needs of the patient. Treatment can sometimes lead to a loss of appetite, or patients may not feel up to preparing a meal. But nutrition is of utmost importance for people fighting cancer.

Good nutritional care improves outcomes and is critical for quality of life. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends that patients have access to pancreatic enzymes and see a registered dietitian.

We asked Maria Petzel, senior clinical dietitian for the Pancreas Surgery Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and a member of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, to explain how pancreatic cancer patients can reduce stress about their food intake as well as maximize their nutrition.

“Poor appetite and/or weight loss can be a source of stress for patients and their loved ones,” Petzel said. “To help reduce stress, try planning meals and snacks ahead of time. Patients can plan for the next day by choosing the foods and a scheduled time to eat. That way, if nothing sounds good the next day, the patient doesn’t have to think about what to eat – they can simply eat the planned food.”

Petzel also mentioned that patients should reach out to their support system for help if they feel comfortable doing so. People in their support system may want to help reduce the patient’s stress by assisting with meal preparation and planning.

“Providing recipes to these individuals can ensure the patient is consuming a variety of foods, with adequate protein, and avoiding ingredients that can make symptoms worse,” Petzel said.

Check out these patient-friendly recipes for guidance.

Finally, Petzel advises that all pancreatic cancer patients see a registered dietitian for additional tips and to alleviate stress about food intake.

Pancreatic cancer patients often have many questions and concerns about nutritional care.  The American Institute for Cancer Research can be used as another resource for healthy eating.

Contact Patient Central for comprehensive disease information – including our diet and nutrition booklet, nutrition tips and recipes – and help finding a registered dietitian in your area.

Come back to our blog each week for a new installment of the Friday Fix.