Nutrition and Lung Cancer Treatment

Can Your Diet Help You Fight Lung Cancer?

There is no data to support that eating any one food or taking any supplement will help cure or fight your lung cancer. You should be wary of any claims that a certain food or supplement will cure your cancer.

However, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains could help you feel your best during treatment. When you are feeling good, you can tolerate treatment better and increase the chances that you will be able to stay on a treatment that is fighting your cancer.

Some patients struggle with certain treatment side effects like nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, and taste changes that can make it difficult to eat a healthy diet. Your doctor and a registered dietitian can work with you to adjust your diet to help you maintain a healthy body weight, manage your side effects and help you feel your best. Always consult your doctor before taking any type of supplement, as it could interfere with your treatment.  

What Should Someone with Lung Cancer Eat?

It depends. Each person's nutritional needs during lung cancer are different. They are based on your lung cancer treatment plan and side effects, your current height and weight, and any other illnesses you may have such as diabetes or heart disease. Here are some nutrition goals to keep in mind as you face lung cancer:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. For some people, this may mean eating enough calories to avoid weight loss and for others, it may mean safely losing weight. Your doctor can help you determine your healthy weight.
  • Get essential nutrients the body needs, mostly from food if possible. These are protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water.
  • Avoid foods that make your lung cancer treatment side effects worse. Certain foods worsen diarrhea, constipation and mouth sores.

Should I Take Vitamins or Supplements While I Am in Treatment?

Always talk to your doctor before taking any type of vitamin or supplement. Certain vitamins and supplements could interfere with your treatment. Smokers in particular should avoid beta-carotene as it increases their risk of lung cancer. Doctors may prescribe a multi-vitamin for patients who are suffering from side effects of treatment and can’t get their nutrients through food. It is recommended to try and get all of your nutrients through healthy foods and only take a supplement if you are deficient.

Should I Be on a Special Diet if I Am on Immunotherapy or a Targeted Therapy Drug?

Right now, the diet recommendations are not different for someone on an immunotherapy or targeted drug. If you have any side effects from your treatment, talk to your doctor who will help you manage them.

How Do I Prepare Food Safely?

When you are receiving treatment for lung cancer, your immune system may not be at its best, which puts you at a greater risk of infection. Follow these general guidelines when preparing food:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before eating
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
  • Use special care in handling raw meats, fish, poultry and eggs
  • Clean anything that has touched raw meat
  • Cook food to proper temperatures and drink pasteurized beverages
  • Store foods promptly at low temperatures to minimize bacterial growth (below 40ºF)
  • Avoid foods that may have potential bacterial contamination such as salad bars, sushi or under cooked meat
  • Contact your local health department if you are worried about water purity

Key Takeaways:

  • There are no foods or supplements that will cure your cancer. Talk to your doctor before you consume anything with such claims.
  • Work with your doctor and a registered dietitian to determine your nutrition goals and what you should be eating. 
  • Reduce your risk of infection by following food safety guidelines.

Content supported by an educational grant from Genentech.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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