Nutrition during Chemotherapy

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Some people find eating and drinking can become difficult during chemotherapy. This can be related to the cancer or due to the side effects of treatment. There are some foods we advise you to avoid during chemotherapy. This information leaflet provides some basic dietary advice relating to chemotherapy.

Eating when you have low immunity

Chemotherapy can reduce the number of white blood cells in the body, which reduces its ability to fight infection. For this reason, there are certain foods we recommend you avoid during chemotherapy as they may contain higher levels of bacteria.

Food to avoid Suitable alternative
Mould ripened, blue veined or
unpasteurised cheese such as stilton,
brie, camembert, and parmesan
Other cheese such as cheddar, mature
cheddar, red Leicester
Meat pate or fish pate Vegetable pate
Raw or runny eggs Well-cooked eggs
Homemade mayonnaise (contains raw
Shop bought mayonnaise
Raw meat or seafood Well-cooked meat and seafood
Probiotics and ‘Bio Live’ style yoghurts,
Other yoghurts are safe to have
Unpasteurised milk Pasteurised milk

Food safety

To reduce the risk of food poisoning, it is recommended to ensure good food hygiene practices. For example:

  • Wash your hands before preparing food and before eating
  • Ensure surfaces are clean before preparing food
  • Ensure meat, poultry and fish are well-cooked
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating
  • Check best before and use by dates
  • Store food safely
  • Do not eat food with damaged packaging

When to see a Dietitian

If you are underweight, losing a significant amount of weight or are struggling with your diet you may be referred to a Dietitian. When you attend your appointments your nurse or doctor will assess whether you need to see a Dietitian and will make a referral for you.

Resources and further reading

We recommend the following Macmillan booklets which are available in the Cancer Centre. You can also download them from the Macmillan website.

Healthy eating and cancer: This booklet is for people living with or after cancer and want to know more about how to follow a healthy diet.
The building up diet: This booklet is for people who have a poor appetite, low body weight, or those who are struggling to maintain their weight during or after treatment.
Eating problems and cancer: This booklet contains practical suggestions to help you cope with the common side effects of cancer treatment.
Managing weight gain after cancer treatment: This booklet contains advice on how to lose weight and keep to a healthy weight after cancer treatment.

Useful websites

We advise our patients not to use internet search engines to find out about diet and cancer as some information online is not accurate. We recommend the following websites which contain information which is based on scientific evidence.

For further information and support please contact:

Your Specialist Cancer Nurse (ANP/CNS) – this contact number is normally given to you in your initial appointment

The Milton Keynes Cancer Centre Wellbeing Team and Information & Support Nurses: 01908 996 563

The Macmillan Cancer Support Helpline: 08088 080 000