How a Healthy Diet Can Help Proton Therapy Patients, Nutrition Tips for Cancer Patients and Meeting Katie Stinger, Proton Therapy Patient Navigator

Jeanette Schenk, Phd, MS, RD

In this blog post, learn from Jeanette Schenk, PhD, MS, RD, regarding the importance of a healthy diet following her latest study, check out three nutrition tips for cancer patients, and get to know the newest member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center - Proton Therapy, Patient Navigator Katie Stinger.

Jeanette Schenk, PhD, MS, RD, a researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, recently conducted a study to determine whether a healthy diet could prevent disease progression in low-grade prostate cancer patients. In this small study, she and her team found only a slight correlation between diet and progression of disease. Despite those results she still supports the value of choosing which foods we consume carefully, saying “a healthy diet has protective effects on many chronic diseases and mortality.” Some larger studies (1,2) have shown a benefit to eating right, including a lower risk of death.  Because of those studies and others, a healthy diet is recommended by health care experts for people with prostate cancer.

The World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF) has evaluated many diet, nutrition and physical activity effects on the risk of developing prostate cancer. They have evidence-based recommendations on cancer prevention: 

  • Be a heathy weight: try to remain in the healthy body mass index throughout life
  • Be physically active: try to walk every day
  • Eat a better diet: whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables
  • Limit “fast foods,” red and processed meats, and sugary drinks
  • Limit alcohol consumption: evidence shows not drinking alcohol is best
  • Do not rely on supplements: get most of your vitamins and minerals through diet
  • Breastfeed your baby, if you can

Dr. Schenk plans to study the relationships between other lifestyle factors, such as alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and physical activity, as they relate to cancer progression in prostate cancer patients managed by active surveillance. In the meantime, here are some videos developed by Fred Hutch on exercises that can be helpful for prostate cancer patients. 

Check out the Science Spotlight that details the study on diet. 

3 Nutrition tips for cancer patients

food on a plate

People living with cancer should endeavor to maintain a healthy body weight and eat nutritious foods to help their body heal properly during and after treatment. Cancer treatments are tough on the body, and during some, food may not taste good, making proper nutrition even harder to maintain. Before making any changes to your diet, consult your care team or oncologist, as recommendations may not apply to all patients.

Though proton therapy is less invasive, with minimal side effects, healthy food choices can help patients feel better and speed up their recovery. Here are some nutrition tips to consider, but remember to check with your care team first before making any dietary changes.

  1. Eat enough calories and protein. According to Stanford Cancer Center, if patients lose their appetites or feel weak, doctors may recommend a high-calorie, high-protein diet. The goal is to consume enough calories, proteins, and nutrients to help rebuild tissues and heal the body
    • Eat lean meats, fish, and poultry
    • Drink commercial nutrition beverages and protein powders
    • Eat healthy carbohydrates from fruits and starchy vegetables
    • Eat healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and full-fat dairy products
    • Eat foods high in vitamins and minerals, like tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, sweet potatoes, organ meats, apples, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, onions, and nuts

Fred Hutch Cook For Your Life offers many high calorie and high protein recipes. View recipes here

  1. Your oncologist may recommend reducing your fiber intake. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer patients with certain medical problems may be asked to reduce the amount of fiber in their diet. If so, the following suggestions may be effective. A low-fiber diet reduces the amount of undigested food moving through the body. Before making any changes to your diet, consult your oncologist or care team to determine if it is right for your type of cancer
    • Bake, broil, or poach meats
    • Eat tender, well-cooked fresh vegetables
    • Drink extra fluids to help prevent constipation
    • Avoid raw or steamed vegetables
    • Avoid all beans, nuts, berries, legumes and processed meats like hot dogs and lunch meats
    • Limit amounts of whole grains, dried fruit and seeds

For information on how to eat and drink when not feeling well, learn more from Fred Hutch Patient Education in this video

  1. Stay hydrated. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, dehydration can be a top concern for cancer patients as they may be at higher risk from side effects of diarrhea and vomiting. Your oncologist or care team may have specific recommendations about the type of fluids consumed and the frequency. Please consult them first before making any changes to your intake of liquids.
    • Keep a beverage by your side and take sips throughout the day
    • Add sliced fruit or vegetables to make water more appetizing
    • Eat ice chips if drinking is too difficult
    • You can also drink coconut water, fruit smoothies and other non-caffeinated beverages

Every cancer patient is different, so be sure to speak with your oncologist, care team or dietitian to discuss your personal nutrition plan. We have a nutritionist at the proton therapy facility. Please contact to request an appointment. Registered dieticians are also available for patients seen at the South Lake Union Clinic. If you are a Fred Hutch patient being seen at one of our other locations, please contact your care team and they will be able to connect you with supportive care services.  

Katie Stinger, Patient Navigator/Concierege

Katie Stinger

Katie Stinger is the newest addition to the Fred Hutch Proton Therapy patient navigator/concierge team.  Stinger and the other patient navigators do much more than greet our patients when they come in for treatment. They are often the first person that patients meet when beginning or considering proton therapy treatment. They walk new patients through what to expect and can connect patients with many resources including access to social workers, support groups, recommendations for housing and transportation if they need it. They act as a liaison between the care team and the patient as questions and needs arise. 

Stinger hails from Carson City, NV, but she and her family traded in the desert climate to live in the Pacific Northwest in 2009. The move was bittersweet for Katie, who enjoyed the change in seasons and remembers the “epic” Halloween/Kit Carson Day parade every fall. “But after my dad passed away, my sister, mom and I needed to make new memories elsewhere. We looked at a map of the West Coast and chose somewhere we had never been before.”

Stinger started working as a massage therapist in 2010. Though she enjoyed that, since then, she has worked for many years outside patient care, mostly as a real estate transaction manager. “I wanted to get back into a field that really has a positive effect on people’s lives, to do something meaningful,” she says. “I saw this job listing and I knew it was for me.” 

“My favorite part of my job is seeing the same folks each day and building rapport and friendship with them,” says Stinger. “I love being able to support our patients and help them through what can be a very scary time. Kindness and understanding goes such a long way.”

Stinger currently lives with her younger sister and mother in Kirkland but is planning to move in with her partner, a musician from Ballard, in June. They both love camping and spending time outdoors, watching Godzilla movies, and making breakfast foods. During the pandemic, Stinger also started making jewelry and watercolor painting. 

Say “hi” to Stinger next time you see her. 

Katie and Ian doing smiling for a photo off a sunny coastal cliff

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