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Nutrition after Head & Neck Surgery

Head & neck cancer is a term use to describe a number of different malignant tumours that develop around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses and mouth.​

Importance of nutrition before and after head and neck cancer surgery

Good and adequate nutrition is important to:

  • help you cope with the cancer and/or treatment-related side effects
  • maintain your weight and nutrient stores
  • help you feel better, recover faster from your cancer treatment

Energy (calories)

Your body needs energy for daily activities.
People with cancer need higher energy to:

  • Optimize nutritional status
  • Maintain and/or regain weight lost
  • Feel stronger

Calories mainly come from Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat.


Your body needs higher protein to:

  • Fight infection
  • Recover from treatment
  • Rebuild muscle and tissue

Your Dietitian will guide you on the good sources and the amount of protein that you require before and after surgery.

Tips to increase energy and protein intake

You may be losing weight & experiencing symptoms that affect your eating before surgery and/or immediately after surgery.
To get the most out of your diet, you can try to:

  • Eat small and frequent meals/ snacks
  • Keep regular meal and snacks time, avoid skipping meals
  • Eat more protein foods first

If you still find it difficult to eat enough food, your Dietitian will recommend suitable nutritional supplement drinks for you.



If you are planning for surgery, you are encouraged to be on high energy, high protein diet to build yourself up for the surgery. Your Dietitian will work with you to devise a meal plan that meet your needs.


Immediately after surgery, you may find that you are unable to eat or drink. Hence, nutritional supplements may be fed through a feeding tube to ensure adequate nutrients for your body. Duration of tube feeding will depend on your type of surgery and recovery.


Subsequently, you may be introduced to different diet textures or fluid consistencies orally. If you are able to obtain adequate nutrition orally, the feeding tube will be removed.

Back to normal diet

The aim is to get back on your regular, well-balanced diet!

Download the Nutrition Head and Neck Surgery guide [PDF | 2339KB]