Food Safety during Cancer Treatment

Why do I need to be careful?

Cancer and its treatment can weaken the immune system by affecting the blood cells that protect us from disease and germs. As a result, your body cannot fight infection and disease as effectively as a healthy person's.

Chemotherapy is usually the main reason why immunity is affected. As a result of chemotherapy, bone marrow produces fewer white blood cells. This reduces your body's defences against infection during and after treatment. The level of white blood cells is at its lowest 7 to 14 days after chemotherapy, so you are more susceptible to infections.

Nadir is the term used by doctors to describe this period. Depending on the drug used, it may vary slightly. But the number of white blood cells will increase steadily and usually returns to normal before your next cycle of chemotherapy.

 

To keep extra safe from infections, follow these food safety tips

Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after preparing food and before eating.
Refrigerate foods at or below 40° F.
Keep hot foods hot (warmer than 140° F) and cold foods cold (cooler than 40° F).
Thaw meat, fish, or poultry in the refrigerator in a dish to catch drips. Do not thaw at room temperature.
Use defrosted foods right away, and do not refreeze them.
Put perishable foods in the refrigerator within 2 hours of buying or preparing them.
Egg dishes and cream- and mayonnaise-based foods should not be left unrefrigerated for more than an hour.
Wash fruits and vegetables well under running water before peeling or cutting. 
Do not use soaps, detergents, chlorine bleach solutions, or commercial produce rinses. 
Using a clean vegetable scrubber, scrub produce that has a thick, rough skin or rind (melons, potatoes, bananas, etc.) or any produce that has dirt on it.
Rinse leaves off leafy vegetables one at a time under running water.
Rinse packaged salads, slaw mixes, and other prepared produce again under running water, even when marked pre-washed. Using a colander can make this easier.
Do not eat raw vegetable sprouts.
Throw away slimy or mouldy fruits and vegetables.
Do not buy produce that already has been cut at the grocery store (like melon or cabbage).
Wash tops off canned foods with soap and water before opening.
Use different utensils for stirring foods and tasting. 
Do not taste the food (or allow others to taste it) with any utensil that will be put back into the food.
Throw away eggs with cracked shells.
Throw out foods that look or smell strange. Never taste them! 

 

For more safety tips visit our 'safety section'