Dietitians Play Critical Role in Patients’ Cancer Journey

MD Anderson Cooper dietitians

MD Anderson Cooper dietitians (l-r) Samantha Farr, RD; Joanna Myers-Casale, RD, CSO; and Linda Goldsmith, MA, RD, CSO, pick out healthy produce at a local farmers market.

Outpatient oncology dietitians at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper play an important role in a patient’s cancer journey, from diagnosis through active treatment and beyond.

Registered dietitians help patients prepare for treatment and counsel patients through issues they may encounter during or after treatment. These nutrition impact symptoms may include:

  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Taste changes
  • Lack of appetite
  • Early satiety
  • Difficulty chewing/swallowing
  • Bowel difficulties
  • Supplement usage
  • Drug/herb interactions
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Esophagitis
  • Oral candidiasis
  • Weight gain
  • Malabsorption
  • Enteral and parenteral nutrition
  • Learning healthy eating

It’s important to note the difference between dietitians and nutritionists. A nutritionist is a non-accredited title that may apply to someone who has done a short course in nutrition or who has given themselves this title. The term “nutritionist” is not protected by law; therefore, people with minimal knowledge and training can call themselves a nutritionist.

To become a registered dietitian, a person must:

  • Complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a U.S. regionally accredited university or college or foreign equivalent, and coursework through an Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) or Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CP).
  • Complete 1,200 hours of supervised practice through an ACEND accredited Dietetic Internship, Coordinated Program in Dietetics or an Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) offered through an ACEND-accredited program.
  • Pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).
  • Complete continuing professional educational requirements in order to maintain the RD or RDN credential.

In addition to counseling patients throughout their cancer journeys, MD Anderson Cooper registered dietitians provide guidance to cancer survivors through community education lectures and classes offered by the Dr. Diane Barton Complementary Medicine Program. They also lecture throughout the community on healthy eating and cancer prevention.

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