Interview with an Oncology Dietitian

For some people with bladder cancer, their appetite can change dramatically due to their treatment regimen, or they may choose to make changes to their lifestyle in an effort to help them in their fight against cancer. One tool people battling bladder cancer often don’t utilize is the help and expertise of an oncology dietitian. These experts can help make sure patients are meeting their nutritional needs even while coping with arduous treatments. At BladderCancer.net, we interviewed Lauren Clanet, a Registered Dietitian at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, about her field and how oncology dietitians can support people living with bladder cancer. Check out her responses to our questions below!

How did you know you wanted to work in the field of nutritional counseling?

I realized as an undergraduate student in college that I desired a career in healthcare. I was uncertain of exactly what career was in my future, but after taking an elective course in nutrition, I quickly learned that there were numerous and varied opportunities within the field of nutrition and dietetics, many of which would allow me to work directly with patients daily. While completing my dietetic internship, I found my ideal nutrition match in oncology nutrition. I enjoyed knowing there was an opportunity, even if just for a small moment, to help someone through one of the toughest moments of his/her life.

How can an oncology dietitian help someone diagnosed with bladder cancer?

There are numerous ways in which an oncology dietitian can be helpful to bladder cancer patients throughout the continuum of their cancer journey. Some dietitians in oncology nutrition have a Board Certification as a Specialist in Oncology Nutrition, as indicated by use of the credential, CSO. This credential indicates the dietitian has documented clinical experience in oncology as well as successfully passed a board certification exam.1 Oncology dietitians may work with patients in a variety of settings such as during a hospital admission, in an ambulatory clinic/cancer center, or in community support group settings. Dietitians can offer recommendations for managing nutrition-related symptoms related to the patient’s diagnosis. Oncology dietitians understand cancer treatments including chemotherapy regimens, radiation therapy, surgery and immunotherapy and the potential side effects that may interfere with a patient’s nutritional status. Thus, the dietitian plays an integral role in a bladder cancer patient’s treatment plan by offering nutrition interventions that best meet the patient’s nutritional needs.

What dietary considerations are most important when coping with bladder cancer treatments or post-bladder cancer surgeries?

When coping with bladder cancer treatment, it is important for patients to stay well nourished. For patients with a great appetite, this may be easy to accomplish; however, many patients may experience treatment-related side effects that could interfere with their ability to eat.

During times of a poor appetite, having quick/easy to prepare foods is often helpful.2 Patients may also find success in consuming smaller, more frequent snack-sized meals as opposed to three larger meals in their day.2 When feeling nauseous, a spicy, greasy meal will not be as appealing as a bland or slightly salted snack.3 If experiencing constipation, it is imperative the patient focus on adequate hydration and consuming enough fiber-rich food if appropriate.4 For patients that may be experiencing diarrhea or loose bowel movements, soluble-fiber rich foods and adequate fluid intake are helpful in promoting more formed bowel movements without causing additional irritation to the GI tract.5

To promote healing and a strong immune system after surgery, the body requires additional calories and protein.6 If patients experience a decreased appetite, fatigue or other side effects that interfere with their ability and desire to eat, it is advantageous to work with an oncology dietitian to ensure the patient’s nutritional needs are still being met.

Do you have any tips for people with bladder cancer who want to make changes to their diet?

Reach out to an oncology dietitian first and foremost for appropriate, evidence-based recommendations. No two patients are exactly alike, so it is advantageous to seek out the expertise of a dietitian for recommendations that meet your specific diagnosis and personal medical history needs. When making dietary changes, it is often helpful to change one dietary habit/choice at a time to assess if the new food is well tolerated but also to promote sustaining that change.

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