FAQs for people with cancer

Answering your questions about diet and exercise during cancer treatment

Do I need to follow a ‘fad’ diet?

‘Fad’ diets (diets that are very restrictive, include few foods or focus on unusual combinations of foods) that claim to help you fight cancer can seem very appealing and get a lot of media attention. However, there’s no scientific evidence that following any type of diet can cure cancer or replace cancer treatments. Also, following a ‘fad’ diet while you’re having treatment can have risks, such as not providing your body with all the nutrients it needs.

If I follow the recommendations on this website, do I still need to take my medication?

There is no scientific evidence that changes to your diet or lifestyle can cure cancer, so it is important to continue taking prescribed medication as instructed by your doctor. If you feel you no longer need a certain medication, do make sure you discuss this with your doctor before you stop taking it.

As with all medication, it is important to ask your doctor or a pharmacist, or to read the patient information, to check if it interacts with any foods or drinks.

What about supplements and natural remedies?

We advise people to get all their nutrients from their food and drinks, where possible. If you aren’t able to eat as normal, your doctor or dietitian may prescribe supplements for you. It is important that you take these as suggested. However, if you are considering taking other supplements or homeopathic, natural or herbal remedies that haven’t been prescribed for you, it is important to discuss this with your doctor before you start taking them to check they are safe for you.

Is your advice for people living with cancer endorsed by dietitians?

The advice in this section of the website, and the information contained in our Eat well during cancer booklet, is endorsed by the British Dietetic Association (BDA), the only body in the UK representing the whole of the dietetic workforce. Founded in 1936, the BDA is one of the oldest and most experienced dietetic organisations in the world.

BDA specialist dietitian Deborah Howland says: "When going through cancer, eating can be a challenge and knowing what to eat can be very difficult and sometimes confusing. That's why Eat Well During Cancer is an important piece of work which will be a real help to many people living with cancer.

"The booklet features some invaluable tips on how different foods can help people cope with some of the common side-effects of cancer treatment. It has the benefit of being written with specialist dietitians so people can be confident that the information is not only accurate but practical. The booklet won't only be useful for patients but for health professionals too.”

The booklet has also been recognised by doctors, and was commended in the 2018 BMA patient information awards. 

How do I know your advice for people living with cancer is reliable?

Our advice for people living with cancer has been written by World Cancer Research Fund’s team of experienced nutritionists, with the support of dietitians from the Oncology Specialist Group of the British Dietetic Association (BDA). The BDA’s backing ensures our advice is based on the most up-to-date scientific evidence and practical expert advice.

Is your advice safe for all adults with cancer?

Our advice has been written in conjunction with specialist oncology dietitians, and should be safe to follow for most adults who have cancer. However, it is a general guide and is not suitable for people who are eating very little, have lost a lot of weight unintentionally or are receiving end-of-life treatment – people in these groups will need specialist information and advice.

If you follow a special diet for another medical condition, such as heart disease, diabetes or renal failure, or have had a colostomy or ileostomy, this website may not be suitable for you. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about safe changes to make to your diet.

What should I do if your advice conflicts with that of my doctor?

Where the advice in this section of our website differs from the advice given to you by your doctor or dietitian, it’s always best to follow their advice as it will be specific to your needs. It should also be noted that many of the specific suggestions in this section of the website, while safe, will not help everyone – they are suggestions that other people have found helpful and that you might also want to try.

Where can I get more help and advice?

Our Support and advice page provides information on some of the many organisations that offer help to people living with cancer, and their familes. If you are nearing the end of your treatment, you may find our booklet Healthy living after cancer useful.