Nutrition can help bone mets treatment by supporting bone health
Three Important Nutrition Tips for Bone Mets Patients
For Stage IV cancer patients, the news that their cancer has metastasized (spread) to the bone can be extremely disheartening. The journey with metastatic cancer requires constant renewal of determination, courage and hope. Metastatic bone cancer, commonly called bone mets, can create new feelings of discouragement and fear of pain. It is important for a bone mets patient to focus on what is in his/her personal realm of possibility in order to regain a sense of empowerment.
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates is credited with saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This is as true during the cancer journey as it is in times of wellness. Many cancer centers have a dietician on staff to help patients transition to foods and supplements that strengthen the immune system, help the body cope with treatment side effects, and starve cancer cells. The Sperling Medical Group recommends that all patients with metastatic cancer work with an integrative team, including a nutritional expert.
There is not a universal dietary protocol for bone mets because they are secondary tumors to the primary cancers that spawn them, such as breast or prostate cancer. In this regard, the best treatment for bone mets is treating the primary cancer. However, when an organ cancer is the center of attention, it is natural to take the skeleton for granted until bone mets puts skeletal function in the spotlight. Suddenly, when bone health becomes vulnerable, we remember that our bones are the basic architecture that holds everything else together, protects our internal organs, support the muscles that make movement possible, and are a source of both red and white blood cells. Thus, it is very important for bone mets patients to assist their bones during the treatment process, and this is something that is definitely within their power.
Here are three tips on how to use nutrition to help reinforce bones during treatment:
1. Calcium – Calcium is good for bones, but many cases of bone mets lead to high calcium levels in the blood, which can be dangerous. Patients should discuss whether or not to take calcium supplements. However, most oncologists support dietary calcium, since the body is well adapted for efficiently and safely absorbing this mineral. Eat foods high in calcium, such as dark leafy greens, low-fat dairy products, sardines and almonds.
2. High protein foods – The body, including the bones, needs optimum strength and energy to cope with the side effects of powerful chemotherapy and other medications. Protein is an essential building block for muscles and bones. However, some studies have linked high levels of animal protein with excretion of calcium. Talk to an oncologist or nutritionist about eating less animal protein and more vegetable protein. All soy and soy-based foods are high in vegetable protein, and dishes made of beans and rice form a complete protein – and can be comforting.
3. Vitamin C- We all associate Vitamin D with strong bones, but Vitamin C helps in a less direct way by supporting collagen production. Collagen is a protein that plays a role in bone strength and integrity. Foods that are plentiful in Vitamin C include fruits (citrus fruits, pineapple, raspberries, mangoes and many more) and vegetables (cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and broccoli, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, etc.).
The most important nourishment of all may be food for the spirit. It’s essential to be able to tap into mental and emotional energy, especially when mustering the commitment and will to do things like eat when appetite has been suppressed by medications, or swallow a supplement when there are already so many pills that it’s hard to keep track of when to take what. Try participating in patient blogs, and for a ray of hope, talk to your oncologist about new treatments and clinical trials.
Today, more than ever, bone mets are well managed with treatment of the primary cancer, oral or IV medications to control pain and reduce bone met activity, and local interventions like ablation (destruction) of the bone tumor using MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS).
For more information on MRgFUS contact the Sperling Medical Group. Remember that taking care of bone mets involves taking heart, too.
- Bone mets