Fort Smith Radiation Oncology, P.A.

Kris L. Gast, M.D.
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What to Eat During Cancer Treatment- March Cancer Demystified

One of the most common questions asked by a newly diagnosed cancer patient who is beginning treatment is, “What should I eat during my treatment?”

Cancer and cancer treatments may affect taste, smell, appetite, and the ability to eat enough food or to absorb the nutrients from food. But, good nutrition remains critical to help patients maintain their body weight and strength during treatment.

Many foods can help a cancer patient maintain good nutrition during treatment.  Concentrated liquid supplements such as Boost and Ensure are good sources for calories. A great source of nutrients and proteins are eggs, which tend to be easy to swallow. Beans and legumes are also rich in protein. Dark green leafy vegetables are packed with vitamins and iron. To help ward off dehydration are the electrolytes found in broth and sports drinks.  Additionally, milk and dairy products add vitamin D and protein to your diet.

Other items may improve conditions for the patient. For example, ginger and peppermint can help decrease nausea and vomiting, while eating yogurt can help control diarrhea.  If food begins to taste bland, seasoning it with flavorful spices such as garlic, cayenne, dill, or rosemary may help.

Finally, eating several small meals throughout the day instead of trying to eat large amounts of food at one time is often beneficial.

Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger. Many patients find that after their diagnosis, they are determined to eat better and live a healthier life.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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Understanding Stages of Grief- February Cancer Demystified

Many of us have friends and family members who have been diagnosed with cancer.  We all want to be able to support our loved ones during this time.  Identifying which stage of grief your loved one is in can help. 

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist and author of the book On Death and Dying, is best known for her theory of the five stages of grief. According to the author, a person goes through these five stages when facing tragedy, illness, or death.

The first step is shock.  When a person hears the words, “You have cancer,” the world can become meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense and one can literally feel numb. This feeling goes hand in hand with the second step, denial.  During this time the person can deny having cancer, feeling as if a mistake was made or a test result was wrong.  The third step is anger. This is the stage when the question, “Why me?” comes into play.  The diagnosed person may go searching for reasons the cancer diagnosis happened.  The patient can be angry with himself, or with others, or at a higher power, and especially with those who are close to them. Searching for a guarantee that all will be okay, the fourth stage is bargaining, which involves the hope that the individual can somehow undo or avoid the cause of grief.  Finally, the cancer patient can move into acceptance, a place where the patient can focus on the fight and be at peace. 

Important to note is that not everyone will go through all these stages. If they do, they might not happen in order. Some people have described a “roller coaster effect,” with lots of wild swings between stages.

For those close to a cancer patient, being aware of these five stages is beneficial. Identifying which stage your friend or family member is in can help you communicate and listen better and support them through their diagnosis and treatment.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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New Year’s Resolutions- January Cancer Demystified

January marks the month when we all make New Year’s resolutions. At the top of everyone’s list of resolutions should be cancer prevention.

Many resources for cancer prevention tips seem to contradict themselves.  Every day we hear of something different that might cause cancer.  Cancer prevention is definitely a work in progress, but a few tried and true lifestyle changes can make a huge difference, not only in preventing cancer but also in improving overall health.

First, and foremost, don’t smoke or use any form of tobacco, including chewing tobacco.  According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths.

Second, lose weight.  Decreasing your weight not only will help you feel better but also likely decrease your risk of cancer, diabetes, and joint pain.

A third important step that should be on everyone’s list is to exercise daily.  Guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise beyond usual activities five or more days a week.

Eating a balanced diet is also essential for cancer prevention.  Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet, watch the calorie contents of your foods, and avoid red meats and refined grains and sugars. For a list of the top 10 cancer fighting foods, go to www.fsro.net.

Finally, schedule your cancer prevention screenings for the year. The American Cancer Society website www.cancer.org lists the cancer screening guidelines for all types of cancers. 

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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