Supporting Health & Wellness

Understanding the Role of Registered Dietitians in Oncology Nutrition

When facing the challenges of medical treatment and diseases, the importance of nutrition cannot be overstated. Registered dietitians play a crucial role in providing specialized care tailored to the unique needs of individuals undergoing medical treatment. This specialized form of care is referred to as Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT).

What is a Registered Dietitian?

Registered dietitians are experts in the field of food and nutrition, possessing in-depth knowledge of how dietary needs may change in the context of medical treatment, specific diseases, or various stages in the life cycle. The goal of their practice is to enhance the overall well-being of individuals by addressing nutritional challenges and promoting optimal health.

Registered Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: Unraveling the Distinction

Many people wonder if there's a difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist. The answer is a resounding yes! 

The key distinction between a dietitian and a nutritionist lies in their professional qualifications and scope of practice. Registered dietitians (RDs) undergo rigorous education and training, including earning a bachelor's degree in nutrition and dietetics, completing a supervised practice program, and passing a national examination. RDs are also required to maintain continuing education credits to stay current in their field. On the other hand, the title "nutritionist" is not regulated in the same way, and individuals using this term may have varying levels of education and expertise, potentially without standardized qualifications. Choosing a registered dietitian ensures a higher level of expertise and adherence to professional standards in the field of nutrition.

To learn more about the distinctions between the two, visit

Who Should Consult a Registered Dietitian?

Individuals facing challenges such as difficulty chewing or swallowing, issues with hydration, or problems absorbing nutrients from food should consider seeking the expertise of a registered dietitian. Additionally, those experiencing unintentional weight loss or gain, nutrition impact symptoms, or with a complex medical history requiring a therapeutic diet may benefit significantly from their services.

Here are some specific situations where consulting a registered dietitian as part of your cancer care is recommended:

  • Post-surgery or Radiation: Especially in the head, neck, abdomen, stomach, and intestines.
  • Unintentional Weight Changes: Whether it's loss or gain, seeking support for weight restoration is crucial.
  • Nutrition Impact Symptoms: Addressing taste and smell alterations, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, or fatigue.
  • Complex Medical History: Conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, multiple food allergies, cardiovascular disease, and more.
  • Enteral Nutrition Support: Individuals using tube feeding.
  • Supplementation and Medication Support: Including pancreatic enzymes and other supportive medications during treatment.

Topics Covered in Nutrition Visits

During treatment, nutrition visits focus on identifying ways to keep the body well-nourished and hydrated. This approach aims to enhance the tolerance of treatment, minimize side effects, and facilitate a quicker recovery post-treatment completion. Once treatment concludes, visits shift toward identifying any repletion needs – calories, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fluids. A personalized and well-balanced nutrition plan is then created to align with individual preferences, lifestyle, and budget.

Scheduling an Appointment with a Registered Dietitian

To schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian, simply ask your healthcare provider for a referral. Nutrition appointments are conveniently available through telehealth services five days a week.

If you already have a referral, you can contact our Nutrition team at: 207-303-3480.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) services are billed to your insurance company. To understand the potential cost and coverage, it is recommended to contact your insurance company directly. When reaching out, provide them with the CPT codes 97802 and 97803 and ask for details on your MNT benefits.

In conclusion, the expertise of registered dietitians is invaluable in navigating the nutritional challenges associated with oncology treatment. Their guidance ensures that individuals receive personalized care that aligns with their unique needs, promoting overall health and well-being.

Chelsea Hardy

Chelsea Hardy, MS, RD, LD

Oncology Dietitian

View Chelsea's Bio

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