Eating Well With Thymic Cancer

Eating Well With Thymic Cancer

The following information was presented at the ThymicUK in-person patient meeting on 24th May 2023 by one of their specialist oncology dieticians.

It outlines a recommended diet for eating well with thymic cancer.  

Text Notes From the Presentation Below:

The importance of eating well

Eating well can have so many different benefits to health. Some of the main benefits include:

  • Improved muscle strength

  • Ensure your energy levels are adequate

  • Help you to maintain a healthy weight

  • Helps with mood

  • Helps to manage the side-effects of treatment

  • Helps with wound healing


The Eat Well Guide

The eat well guide represents a healthy and balanced diet. This is a recommended to follow if there are no concerns about loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss through treatment.   




The Starchy carbohygrate food groups, form about 1/3 of the eat well diet. 

Examples include:

Bread, cereal, pasta, rice, noodles, yam, plantain.

Carbohydrates are a good source of energy, fibre and different vitamin and minerals, including: calcium, iron, B vitamins.

It is recommended to include a portion of carbohydrates at each mealtime. 


Examples of carbohydrate portion sizes include:

  • 4/6 TBSP cooked pasta or rice or cereal
  • 4 Egg sized potatoes / 1 large jacket potatoes
  • 2 medium slices of bread
  • 2 small chapattis


Tip: The top tip would be to go for the wholemeal, wholegrain varieties because they are much higher in levels of fibre. They keep us fuller for longer and help with bowel function.


Fruit and Vegetables

Fruit and vegetables form about 1/3 of the eat well diet.
Fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetablesall count towards one of your portions each day.
There are several different benefits to eating fruits and vegetables every day.
They are really high in different vitamins, minerals and fibre. Fibre can help to keep us fuller for longer. They are also low in fat.


Recommended fruit and vegetable portions

  • 5 a day. (There are many studies suggesting higher figures, such as 8. Really the aim is to try and eat as many as possible and 5 is a good standard benchmark to aim for.)

  • 1 medium piece of fruit

  • 2 small sized fruits (such as a kiwi or satsuma)

  • 1 slice of large fruit (such as melon or pineapple)

  • Heaped tablespoon of druid fruit (such as raisin)

  • 3 heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables (such as carrots or peas)

  • 150ml glass of unsweetened fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie – (Only ever counts as a maximum of 1 portion)

Tip: A good tip with your fruits and vegetables is to aim for a rainbow colour. If you eat different colours of fruit and vegetables then you’re going to get a good variety of different vitamins and minerals.

If you are opting for tinned fruit or vegetables, opt for ones in juice rather than syrup. Also look for no-added salt.

Tip: Filling your plate with fruit and vegetables can help to keep you fuller for longer thanks to their higher fibre content.


Protein Rich Foods

The last 1/3 of the eat well guide is mainly spilit between protein rich foods and dairy/dairy alternatives.

Examples include: Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, nuts, meat alternatives (such as tofu, soya, Quorn).

Protein is sometimes referred to as the building block for life. It has several functions including:

  • Helps with muscle growth and promotion.

  • Helps with wound healing.

  • A very good source of vitamins and minerals

It is generally recommended to include a portion of protein in each meal.


Recommended Protein Portions

  • 2-3 portions a day. Examples of portions include: 

  • 60-90g cooked meat or poultry (looks like a deck of cards)

  • 140-195g cooked white/oily fish (half the size of your hang)

  • 80g soya/tofu or other meat alternative (use pack as a guide)

  • 6 tablespoons of beans/pulses

  • 1 tablespoon of nuts

  • 2 eggs


Milk, dairy and alternatives

Examples include: Milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais and dairy alternatives such as soya milk, oat milk, almond milk.

Dairy and dairy alternatives can be a good source of protein.  They can also be a key source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, calcium and B12.


Recommended Milk, Dairy and Alternatives Portions

  • 3 portions a day. Examples of portions include:

  • 1 small pot of yoghurt or calcium fortified alternatives.

  • Small matchbox size of cheese e.g. 30g

  • 1/3 pint of milk (200ml) or calcium enriched milk alternative


Top Tips

  • Generally dairy can be high in fat so it can be a good idea to opt for lower fat varieties, do however be mindful that this can sometimes lead to a higher sugar content. Always best to check the label.

  • If choosing dairy alternatives, ensure that they are fortified with calcium and unsweetened.


Treats and snacks

The general recommendations are to have them in smaller portions and to eat less of them.

Tips for poor appetite / weight loss

The advice is different for people who have lost their appetite or who are unintentionally losing weight. The focus should be more on a little and often approach to eating. Focus more on 6 small meals or snacks a day, as this may be a more realistic option.

Opt for foods that are high in energy, such as oils, dairy, foods that are high in protein (a building up diet).

Increase snacking between meals (such as a bag of nuts, packet of crisps, cheese and crackers, full fat yoghurt). 

If you are going up for a hospital appointment for instance be prepared with nuts or a packet of crisps, something that you can snack on while you are waiting for your appointment.

Make sure that each mouthful is as nutritious as possible. With a jacket potato and beans for instance add some butter or cream to make each mouthful more energy dense.

  • Use a smaller plate.

  • Eat when you feel like it.

  • Make meals as enjoyable as possible.

  • Include nourishing fluids, such as milk and milkshakes (which can be a really good source of protein)

  • Discuss with your healthcare team if you would benefit from a referral to the dietitian. Dietitians can discuss individualised advice and also may recommended oral nutritional supplement drinks in some cases.


If Nausea is stopping you from eating

  • Be mindful of any anti-sickness medication and the timing, such as 20-30 minutes before a meal.

  • Dry and plain foods don’t have so much smell associated with them and can be easier to manage, as opposed to rich, fatty goods.

  • Avoid greasy, fatty foods, spicy and caffeinated foods.

  • Food containing ginger or peppermint may help with nausea

Taste Changes

Some people might have a metallic taste, others may have a heightened taste for sweet foods.

Consider regular mouth care / brushing tongue to help alleviate this.
For metallic tastes some people find plastic rather than metal cutlery better.

With taste changes it is often the case that extra flavour such as herbs, spices and pepper needs to be added to foods to make it more palatable and enjoyable.

Sharp tasting foods can be helpful for people, such as a little bit of lemon in water. Some people have said they find pineapple really helpful before a meal, and that it can be quite refreshing, helping with taste changes.

Dry / Sore Mouth

If your mouth is dry or sore opt for your soft/moist foods. If your mouth is dry, try anything to stimulate saliva flow, such as sucking on boiled sweets. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids with meals throughout the day.

Keep your lips moist by using Vaseline or lip balm.


Plan ahead. If you have a day when you are feeling you have more energy and feel you can pop some things in the freezer for when you are too tired to cook.

Cook at times you feel less tired.

Taking additional supplements

If you are managing to eat a balanced diet and are inducing foods from different food groups you should be meeting your nutritional needs through the diet. The foods are going to be giving you the required vitamins and minerals but also other benefits such as fibre, that supplements cant give you.

If you are worried that you are not meeting your needs, and not having all of your portions of fruit and vegetables you may want to take a standard A-Z supplement to ensure you are getting anything you are missing. It is really important however you let your cancer care team know if you are taking or planning to take supplements.

Final notes

The World Cancer Research Fund is a good source for further information

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