WHAT S CANCER GOT TO DO WITH FOOD?

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1 For Immediate Release 4 February 2015 WHAT S CANCER GOT TO DO WITH FOOD? Food is a major element in cancer prevention and care. Not only can cancer risk be reduced with a healthy lifestyle; nutritional intake during and after cancer treatment is also important for a patient s recovery. We are what we eat. This phrase takes on new and even more significant meaning in the fight against cancer, with good nutrition a vital weapon to help ward off the disease as well as aid recovery. That is the good news that the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) wants to put out on World Cancer Day this year, February 7. While cancer is the leading cause of death in Singapore, it can be prevented and active screening catches many cases early, which means fewer deaths as the disease is detected and arrested before it spreads. Equally important is the role of food in cancer prevention, as one third of cancers are deemed preventable by lifestyle changes including diet. Dietary factors have indeed been recognised as posing a significant effect on the risk of cancers, with different dietary elements either increasing or reducing the risk of cancer. A fat-soaked, high-cholesterol diet, physical inactivity and obesity have been shown to corelate with up to 30-35% of cancer deaths. Over-nutrition, or the excessive intake of food and nutrients, is by far the most significant dietary cause of cancer and is the reason a healthy diet is important. Good healthy diets can help prevent cancer, help recovery Many types of food can help protect a person against cancer, such as vegetables and fruits. Some foods such as herbs and spices may be helpful in preventing cancer and have shown promising results in studies, added Dr Lim Siew Eng, a senior consultant in the Department of Haematology-Oncology and the Associate Director (Clinical Education) of the NCIS. 1

2 However, there are also foods such as processed and preserved foods that increase the risk of cancer, especially nasopharyngeal, throat and stomach cancers. Being overweight or obese is also associated with an increased risk of cancers. Therefore it is important to limit consumption of calorie-densed food and beverages to avoid unnecessary weight gain. Cancer patients undergoing treatment for their illness require optimum nutrition to help them recover. A cancer patient s nutritional needs, food intake, digestion, as well as his/her body s absorption and utilisation of nutrients can also be altered by surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, said Dr Lim Su Lin, chief dietitian at the National University Hospital. The increased energy need during cancer treatment, coupled with reduced nutritional intake due to eating difficulties caused by treatment side effects, leads to unintentional loss of weight and muscle mass, as well as lethargy. Adequate food, especially protein intake during cancer treatment is crucial for recovery, wound healing and prevention of infection. However, eating and drinking can be challenging for cancer patients, for example those suffering from nasopharyngeal cancer or nose cancer, as it is commonly known. This is because of the side effects of treatment, such as the loss of taste, pain in swallowing due to the throat and mouth ulcers. Many patients are discouraged as they find it painful to eat or drink during this period. That was the experience of a patient, Mr Tan who had nasopharyngeal cancer. I lost some weight initially because of changes in my eating habits. But I wanted to ensure that I had sufficient nutritional intake so that my body is strong enough to sustain the treatment and its side effects, so I did my research and was in constant communication with my dietitian from the NUH. For example, when I had difficulty swallowing, I discussed with my dietitian and changed to a texture-modified diet (softblended diet). I also took a lot of fruits and vegetables, and sometimes I even prepare additional portions from home to supplement my meals when I eat out. Added Ms Esther Lin, a dietitian at the NUH, During the recovery phase, some patients still continue to experience side effects or complications from treatment which affect their nutritional status. It is important that patients obtain adequate calories and proteins during this phase to help them recover. Patients will also require ongoing nutritional assessment and support during this period. If patients are not able to manage to eat and drink, they will need to continue taking oral nutritional beverages to supplement their oral intake. 2

3 To enable the general public as well as cancer patients and their caregivers to better understand the link between cancer and food, NCIS World Cancer Day Public Symposium this year looks at the therapeutic power of food. Appropriately titled What s Cancer Got to Do with Food, the event will have. Senior Minister of State (Health & Manpower), Dr Amy Khor as the Guest of Honour while celebrity chef, Eric Neo from the InterContinental Singapore will show participants ways of preparing tasty, nutritious meals. Visit the public symposium organised on 7 February 2015 to find out more. For details, refer to End For more information, contact: Sharon Aw Senior Assistant Manager, Communications Tel:

4 About the National University Hospital The NUH is a tertiary hospital and major referral centre for a comprehensive range of medical, surgical and dental specialties including Cardiology, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Paediatrics, Orthopaedic Surgery and Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery. The Hospital also provides organ transplant programmes for adults (in kidney, liver and pancreas) and is the only public hospital in Singapore to offer paediatric kidney and liver transplant programme. Staffed by a team of healthcare professionals who rank among the best in the field, the NUH offers quality patient care by embracing innovations and advances in medical treatment. In 2004, the NUH became the first Singapore hospital to receive the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation, an international stamp for excellent clinical practices in patient care and safety. Today, patient safety and good clinical outcomes remain the focus of the hospital as it continues to play a key role in the training of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, and in translational research which paves the way for new cures and treatment, offering patients hope and a new lease of life. A member of the National University Health System, it is the principal teaching hospital of the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the NUS Faculty of Dentistry. For more information, please visit About the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore The National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) offers a broad spectrum of cancer care and management covering both paediatric and adult cancers, with expertise in prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. The Institute s strength lies in the multi-disciplinary approach taken to develop a comprehensive and personalised plan for each cancer patient and his or her family. NCIS draws on the expertise of its specialists in the fields of haematology-oncology, radiation oncology, gynaecologic oncology, paediatric oncology, surgical oncology, oncology nursing, oncology pharmacy, palliative care, pathology, radiology, medical specialties including gastroenterology and hepatology, infectious diseases, pulmonary and critical care, psychiatry, epidemiology and public health as well as other allied health sciences. NCIS s strength in research allows patients to access drugs and devices before they are 4

5 commercially available. NCIS is also closely affiliated with the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, National University of Singapore. For more information about the NCIS, please visit About the National University Health System (NUHS) The National University Health System (NUHS) groups the National University Hospital, the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, the NUS Faculty of Dentistry and the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health under a common governance structure to create synergies for the advancement of health by integrating clinical care, research and education. The enhanced capabilities and capacity enable the NUHS to deliver better patient care, train future generations of doctors more effectively and bring innovative treatments to patients through groundbreaking research. Visit 5

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