IT’S not unusual for cancer treatment to affect the mouth and appetite, but specialist Professor Mohammed Keshtgar knows eating well is a concern for many patients. As Breast Cancer Awareness month begins, Keeley Bolger discovers the inspiration behind his new cookbook
It might be one of the less talked about elements of breast cancer, but with treatments often causing side-effects like exhaustion, reduced appetite, soreness of mouth and an upset stomach, mealtimes can be a minefield.
And all those conflicting reports in the media about which foods might cause cancer and which might prevent it, don’t do much to help.
Sensing the understandable confusion among his patients, Professor Mohammed Keshtgar, a consultant breast cancer specialist at London’s Royal Free hospital, set to work on The Breast Cancer Cookbook, a collection of scientifically-informed, nutritious and enjoyable recipes, which he promises are “simple, easy to cook and easy to understand”.
“We advise things like cool smoothies and avoiding spicy or sour foods that can irritate ulcers,” adds Keshtgar. “We also advise plenty of fluids during this period [of treatment] and food with a stronger flavour, so while [patients might] have issues with the taste sensation, they can still enjoy their food as much as possible.”
The book also clears up some commonly held myths.
“A lot of people stop taking dairy [when they’re diagnosed with breast cancer],” says the professor. “We think that’s not right. We don’t think dairy can cause or promote breast cancer.
“Dairy is a very important source of calcium, especially for patients who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer; the tablets given to them can sometimes cause weakness of the bones.”
Generally speaking, he does recommend eating more pulses and soy, whose structure “resembles the structure of oestrogen without any of the hormonal values”, and is thought to help offer a “protective effect” against breast cancer by “preventing cancer cell growth”.
But the recipes aren’t solely aimed at people who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer; they could be part of anybody’s healthy lifestyle and in that sense, Keshgtar hopes, aid in the prevention of the disease.
On this front, he notes that eating plenty of fibre and keeping fat intake - especially saturated fat - low, is important, as well as “being physically active”.
“The recommendations are quite simple,” says Keshgtar. “What we emphasise is that people should be taking in balanced diets.
“We hope the book will go a long way for patients and give them another resource to refer to,” he adds.
“The effects of diet and lifestyle are long-standing; it just doesn’t happen within days and months. But if one changes the actual habit over a long period of time, it’s another factor that we can at least use in the prevention of development of cancer.”
• To try three recipes from Prof Mohammed Keshtgar’s The Breast Cancer Cookbook, visit the Scotsman Food & Drink site