Cancer related weight loss can result from basically three different conditions - anorexia, mechanical obstruction and cachexia.
Anorexia (as opposed to anorexia nervosa) many be defined as a loss of desire to eat or the lack of hunger. It can be caused by the side effects of chemotherapy treatment such as nausea, mouth sores and changes in taste or smell; it can be disease related or it can be caused by emotional distress. Chemo related anorexia is treated with attention to the side effects causing the condition and is usually resolved after treatment completion. For patients with anorexia, dietary counseling is very important including food choices, supplementation and food preparation.
Anorexia caused by depression requires psychological counseling and possibly prescription medication.
Weight loss can also be the result of tumour encroachment in the alimentary tract or other region causing the dysfunction of food and nutrient metabolization.
Finally, weight loss can result from cachexia which is recognized as a significant loss of body fat and skeletal muscle tissue, wasting, and anemia. For more information on cachexia, please see the "Advanced Disease" section under the "Recurrence" button.
Maintaining stable body weight by way of dietary balance and exercise is crucial to supporting your cancer treatment. Seeking the assistance of a specialized cancer dietician is highly recommended before you begin your chemo or at the very least, as soon as possible thereafter. Bearing in mind the stage of your disease and your potential digestive impairments, a qualified dietician can provide valuable advice on dietary modifications and supplementation. Weight loss due to anxiety, depression and fatigue needs to be brought to the attention of your healthcare provider. Counseling and/or prescription drug intervention may be required.
As is clearly indicated in the foregoing outlines, maintaining stable body weight, by way of proper nutrition, is a vital key to the successful outcome of cancer treatment. Understanding the nutrients required - and they differ substantially from your pre-diagnosis state - to support your body through chemotherapy, is imperative.
It is often observed that the single-most area of contention between the family members and the cancer patient is the patients' seeming inability or unwillingness to eat. In this case, the family requires professional counseling and educational support to understand the complexities of the disease.
We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.