Health Comes First
MANAGING WEIGHT LOSS IN CANCER TREATMENT
Managing weight loss in cancer treatment
What can cause me to lose weight or have no appetite?
You can lose weight or have no appetite because of your:
●Cancer – Even if you eat a lot, your cancer might keep your body from taking in all the nutrients it needs.
●Treatments – Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation have side effects that can make it hard to eat. For example, these treatments can cause nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, tiredness, dry mouth, or changes in taste and smell.
●Pain – Having pain from either the cancer or treatment (especially surgery) can cause you to lose your appetite.
●Mood – Feeling sad or worried can make people lose their appetite.
Why is it important to eat enough?
It's important to eat enough so you stay as healthy and strong as possible, especially during your cancer treatment. Eating enough and getting enough fluids will also give you more energy and help you feel better in general.
What foods can help keep my weight up?
Eating foods with a lot of calories and protein in them can help keep your weight up. Some examples of these foods are:
●Milk, milkshakes, cheese, pudding, and smoothies
●Nutritional supplement drinks, such as Ensure, Boost, or Carnation Instant Breakfast
●Eggs, chicken, lean red meat, and fish
●Yogurt, frozen yogurt, and ice cream
●Peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit, and granola bars
What can I do on my own to eat enough
To eat enough and make sure that your body gets the nutrients it needs, you can:
●Eat 5 to 6 small meals a day, instead of 3 large meals
●Eat healthy snacks in between meals whenever you feel hungry
●Add butter, oil, nuts, gravy, powdered milk, protein powder, or cream to your foods to give them extra calories and protein
●Drink fluids between meals instead of with your meals, so you don't fill up on fluids
●Eat foods that smell good, or add spices or condiments to your food
●Eat with family or friends
●Buy pre-cooked foods or cook food ahead of time and freeze it
●Ask someone to cook or shop for you, if you are unable to cook or shop
●Take a short walk about an hour before you eat to help you work up an appetite
●Ask your doctor if you should take vitamins or work with a nutrition expert
●If you have side effects from your treatments that are keeping you from eating, these tips might help:
•If you have a dry mouth, drink lots of fluids and avoid foods that are hard or dry (such as toast or crackers). You can eat moist foods, or suck on ice chips or sugar-free hard candy.
•If you have mouth sores, eat soft foods that you can chew and swallow easily. You can also cut up your food into small pieces or mash it in a blender. Try to avoid spicy or salty foods.
•If you have nausea, eat foods that are bland and dry, such as crackers, rice, and toast. Avoid foods that are spicy and greasy.
•If you have trouble having a bowel movement, try to drink more fluids. You can also eat foods with a lot of fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, oatmeal, and some breads and cereals.
•If you have diarrhea, try to drink a lot of fluids so your body doesn't lose too much water. Try to avoid milk, greasy foods, and foods with a lot of fiber.
When should I call my doctor or nurse?
Call your doctor or nurse if you:
●Are not able to keep any food or drink in your stomach
●Have severe belly pain
●Are dizzy or weak
●Have a fever
Are there medicines that can increase my appetite?
Yes. Doctors can prescribe different medicines to help increase a person's appetite. Medicines that doctors commonly use include:
●Steroids – Doctors usually recommend that people not take these medicines for more than a few weeks. Even though these medicines can help, they can also cause problems of their own.
Are there other treatments that can help if I have no appetite or lose weight?
Yes. Sometimes, doctors use other treatments if people are unable to eat or if their body doesn't take in nutrients from the food they do eat.
People who can't eat on their own but whose bodies can digest food might get "tube feedings." People who get tube feedings get their food and nutrients through a tube that goes into the stomach or small intestine.
People whose bodies are unable to digest food might get their nutrition through a thin tube that goes into the vein. But doctors don't usually need to use this type of treatment for patients who have cancer.