Diet & Exercise

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2018

Nutrition is important for general health, and it is especially important for people undergoing treatment for blood cancer. Proper nutrition supplies the body with the nutrients it needs to heal, recover from injury or illness, and handle stress. Since blood cancer and its treatment can place both physical and emotional stress on the body, nutrition is a key component to keeping the body strong and healthy.1

Equally important to a healthy body is regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to have many health benefits, including reducing anxiety and fatigue, improving mental well-being, maintaining or improving balance, and improving circulation and heart function. While in the past, people going through treatment for cancer were told to rest as much as possible, more recent research has shown that exercise during treatment can help improve the body’s functions and improve quality of life (check with your doctor if you have an exercise restriction).1,2

Maintaining nutrition during treatment

Some treatments for blood cancer can impact a person’s appetite or change how foods taste. Eating a nutritious diet is important to maintain health and can potentially help protect the body from side effects. Healthy eating tips for people undergoing treatment for blood cancer include:

  • Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables (try to eat several different colors)
  • Trying new foods, even things you didn’t like before as they may taste good during treatment
  • Eating less meat and more plant-based foods, like substituting beans for animal protein
  • Limiting high-fat foods, especially those from animal sources
  • Cooking low-fat by baking or broiling, rather than frying
  • Choosing fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Limiting sugar and alcohol
  • Drinking lots of water to stay hydrated and avoid sugary drinks like soda (check with your doctor if you have a fluid restriction)1,2

Nutrition tips for children undergoing treatment for blood cancer

Ensuring children with blood cancer get proper nutrition can help them feel better and stay stronger through treatments. Treatment may change a child’s sense of taste or smell, and it may be helpful to try:

  • Serving certain foods cold or at room temperature, to reduce their odor or flavor and make them easier to eat
  • Using straws with lids
  • Using plastic flatware instead of metal if your child has a metallic taste in his or her mouth
  • Trying frozen fruits, like strawberries, blueberries, or grapes
  • Making shakes or smoothies
  • Trying different sources of protein, like chicken, fish, eggs, or beans2

Exercising during treatment

While undergoing treatment for blood cancer, a person’s energy levels or stamina may be affected, and exercises that might have been easily accomplished before treatment may need to be modified or done at a lower intensity during treatment. However, it is possible for people who are currently in treatment for blood cancer to maintain some activity, and the benefits of exercise physically and emotionally can help improve a person’s health and well-being.

  • Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, or if you have questions on how best to modify your existing routines.
  • Consider consulting an exercise specialist, physical therapist, or exercise physiologist for professional expertise. Be sure to let them know about your condition and treatment.
  • Choose exercise that you enjoy doing.2

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