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Food Fights Back Against Mesothelioma


Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos particles. There are over 2,000 Americans diagnosed with the disease each year currently – and there is no cure.

Symptoms of the disease typically do not manifest until 20 to 40 years after the asbestos exposure occurs. The long latency period is detrimental to patient prognosis. Most often the disease is not properly diagnosed until it has progressed into the third or fourth stage. At that later stage the cancer has often metastasized and treatment options are typically limited to palliative care. The prognosis is poor for mesothelioma patients, the average life expectancy is 12 to 21 months following diagnosis.[i]

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that was commonly used in building materials through the 1970s due to it’s ability to resist heat, fire, and electricity. Mesothelioma develops when these microscopic fibers are inhaled and become embedded in the lining of the organs.

Although prognosis for mesothelioma is typically poor, patients who are well nourished have been known to have better outcomes. Maintaining proper nutrition while enduring mesothelioma treatment is very difficult as the treatments may change the science of the body. These changes impact the way the body absorbs the nutrients. For instance, the body’s use of protein, carbohydrates, and fat may be affected, especially by tumors of the stomach or intestines. A patient may seem to be eating enough, but the body may not be able to absorb all the nutrients from the food due to the tumors.



Many mesothelioma patients find that it becomes difficult to eat while receiving treatment. This is usually caused from side effects of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy. Mesothelioma patients undergoing these types of treatments can experience loss of appetite, mouth sores, dry mouth, trouble swallowing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, pain, depression, and anxiety. All of these side effects can hinder the patient’s desire to eat which can lead to malnutrition and make it even more difficult for patients to fight infections and maintain the necessary stamina to continue treatment.  There is a solution, and personalized nutrition is the answer.

Personalization and practicality are important.  The patient must be cared for where they are at within their journey.  Prevention is important, and nutrients play a large part. Fruits and vegetables, fiber rich whole grains and healthy fats in line with the Mediterranean Diet has been consistently shown to be most advantageous for preventing devastating cancers from developing or recurring.[ii]  Berries are among the fruits highest in antioxidant content and are excellent sources of several phytonutrients that seem to help block cancer development. Less processed is best. The key is to consume berries in their raw, whole fruit form rather than fruit drinks made from berries, that usually contain additional added sugars. Some of the most beneficial and popular berries are strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and cranberries.

Additionally dark leafy greens are a good source of many vitamins; such as Vitamin A, C, K and folate. The greens have iron, calcium and fiber which proves beneficial to patients. Spinach, kale, broccoli, collard greens, mustard greens, swiss chard, and romaine lettuce are excellent examples.

Healthy fat and fiber is essential. Fiber, especially those in whole grains, are beneficial for preventing the diagnosis and recurrence of some major types of cancer.[iii]  Try to reach the recommended 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. For reference, 1 cup of oats has 8 grams of fiber! Healthy fats, especially those omega-3, polyunsaturated kinds are excellent for health. Some examples are cold-pressed olive oils, avocados, and oils found in fatty fish like wild caught mackerel and salmon.



Working with Oncology-Credentialed Registered Dietitians is important to provide medical nutrition therapy that is individual and practical for the patient, to help to relieve side effects of treatment or medications, and to encourage eating at a time when it may be most challenging. Malnutrition is a common concern for many cancer patients. Malnutrition extends treatment time, creates worsening side effects and debilitates the patient at a time when strength is important. Finding and treating nutrition problems early can help the patient gain weight or prevent weight loss, decrease problems with the treatment, and help recovery.[iv]  It’s an empowering way of taking control of your life during this challenging journey.



Learn more about how you can reduce you and your loved one’s risk of developing mesothelioma at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.


[i] Mesothelioma Cancer. (2017). Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Accessed at: https://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/
[ii] Pei-Ying Lu, Long Shu, Shan-Shan Shen, Xu-Jiao Chen,* and Xiao-Yan Zhang. Dietary Patterns and Pancreatic Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. (2017). 9, 38
[iii] Mingyang Song, MD, ScD; Kana Wu, MD et al. Fiber Intake and Survival After Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis. JAMA Oncology. (2017). Pp E1-E9
[iv] Sandra Capra; Maree Ferguson; Kristen Ried. Cancer: Impact of Nutrition Intervention Outcome – Nutrition Issues for Patients. Nutrition (2001): 17: 769-772



Rachel Lynch

Rachel Lynch is the Press and Media Coordinator for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, a leading authority for information on lung health, asbestos exposure and its link to mesothelioma.

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