A common concern for caregivers and patients is how to stop weight loss in cancer patients in a healthy way. In this article, we will provide tips to promote maintaining a healthy weight as well as the causes of weight loss. Weight loss during treatment is linked to more hospitalizations, delays in treatment, and malnutrition. It is important to prioritize nutrition and a balanced diet.
A healthy diet is important for cancer patients because malnutrition can be dangerous. Weight loss increases the mortality rate for most types of cancer while also lowering the response to chemotherapy and other treatments.
Causes of Weight Loss in Cancer Patients
Weight loss can be attributed to two reasons, the cancer itself and/or the symptoms that occur during treatment. For patients with inoperable cases of cancer, the weight loss syndrome, cachexia is common. These patients especially have difficulty handling the physical demands or intense symptoms of their treatment. Cachexia is characterized by:
- Muscle loss
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased quality of life
Currently, there are no guidelines for the treatment of cancer cachexia other than attempting to alleviate its’ symptoms. The difference between cachexia and standard weight loss for cancer patients is that the metabolism itself is being affected. Increasing calories will not help as much with gaining weight due to the change in the metabolic system. Cachexia is attributed to the cancer, not the treatment. Talk to your doctor about any new symptoms being experienced for suggestions on how to increase appetite or help with symptoms.
How to Stop Weight Loss in Cancer Patients
Every individual’s needs are different, and you should consult your doctor about any changes in your diet or loss of appetite from treatment. General tips for managing weight loss include:
- You may not be able to eat full meals easily due to loss of appetite, so eating multiple smaller meals throughout the day is a good alternative.
- Keep track of your daily intake of food and nutrition as well as how you feel after certain foods. Share with your doctor what foods cause nausea or a loss of appetite for suggestions on creating a balanced diet.
- Talk to your doctor about adding a nutritionist or dietician to your care team to make sure you are receiving all the proper foods and nutrients.
For some patients, your doctor might suggest taking a medication to aid in stopping weight loss. These medicines are designed to help with symptoms like nausea and vomiting while increasing well-being and promoting weight gain. These medications include:
- Megestrol Acetate
- Steroids (corticosteroids/glucocorticoids)
- Dronabinol (Marinol)
- Metoclopramide (Reglan)
- Pancreatic enzyme (Lipase) replacement
Thanks for this article. My brother has mantle lymphoma cancer and his too much weight.
So sorry to hear that your brother is dealing with mantle cell lymphoma, it can be very difficult but there are options available including clinical trials, we would be happy to assist him in finding the best treatment, you can call or email us to speak with a patient advocate now.
Our mom was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and she says food doesn’t taste good. She was running a fever and took her antibiotic . Her antibiotic makes her sick . I have tried to give her high calorie drinks and she refuses them. What can I do?
We’re sorry to hear that your mom is having trouble eating, different therapies often cause loss of appetite and weight loss, high calorie drinks are recommended along with plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, if you would like to hear about other treatment options including clinical trials, reach out to us today by telephone or email. Thank you!
Examples of high calorie drinks? I’m a cancer patient and struggling with weight loss.
Hi Marinda, thank you for reaching out. You can try eating smaller meals, but more often to help with weight gain. Generally, 5-6 small meals per day is recommended rather than 2-3 larger meals. Some examples of high calorie drinks include milkshakes, but adding bananas, peanut butter, or other high calorie/high protein foods to it. Additionally, there are many different canned liquids, such as broths and soups in which cheese, potatoes, and other high calorie vegetables can be added. There are also, of course, options that you can buy such as Ensure, Boost, and Orgain, however, if you don’t like the taste of those pre-made drinks, you can consider mixing in fruits and veggies to your taste. We would be happy to discuss other options further with you. Feel free to reach out any time!
My daughter has Aml and not doing no treatment I notice more weight loss and she don’t want to do nothing more how can I help her matain weight not for it togo down
Hi Patricia, thank you for reaching out. You can try having your daughter eat smaller meals, but more often. Generally, 5-6 small meals per day is recommended rather than 2-3 larger meals. If she is tolerating different foods, the meals should consist of high calorie, yet healthy options such as peanut butter, avocados, yogurt, nuts, etc. She can also try adding condiments to her foods, such as salad dressing, olive oil, cheese, etc. to help foods taste better and add more calories to the meal. Finally, making milkshakes and even adding fruit or other sweets to the shakes can be a tasty and high calorie treat! Please feel free to reach out to speak with a nurse if you have any additional questions.
What can I do to help her maintain her weight.? She has lekemia and in past at 15 had none marrow transplant .And colon cancer surgery s she also has Fanconi Anemia. Which never went away what can I do to help her.shes 38 now feeling lost.you can message me.She don’t want to talk to groups as death is something she don’t want to talk about . She don’t work she’s weak is she eligible for any kind of finances questions I don’t have an answer to and being she’s 38 more like she’s 17 this has been very hard on me thank you very much God bless
Hi Patricia, as discussed in the previous comment, you can try having your daughter eat smaller meals, but more often. Generally, 5-6 small meals per day is recommended rather than 2-3 larger meals. If she is tolerating different foods, the meals should consist of high calorie, yet healthy options such as peanut butter, avocados, yogurt, nuts, etc. She can also try adding condiments to her foods, such as salad dressing, olive oil, cheese, etc. to help foods taste better and add more calories to the meal. Finally, making milkshakes and even adding fruit or other sweets to the shakes can be a tasty and high calorie treat! A nurse at Massive Bio would be more than happy to review options that may be available to your daughter with you at any time. Please feel free to reach out and speak to a nurse.
My mom is currently going through chemo once a week to fight the ovarian cancer and she has lost 36-40lbs in a year and hardly has desire to eat and is very tired. She continues to lose the weight. She wants go get better and gain weight.
Please speak to your mother’s treating physician about your concerns to see what options might be available to improve her appetite.
My mom had a fallopian tube cancer and recently she take 1st round of chemotherapy after 2 to 3days of it she having severe body archa, throat pain and weight loss .can u please tell me how to deal with it .
Hi Sugyanee. We are sorry to hear about your mother’s side effects. There are medications to help with the side effects of chemotherapy. Please contact her doctor and discuss these with them for proper support.
My dad was suffering with colorectal cancer radiation has done they give 6 weeks time for chemo how can I increase his weight from 70 to 80 and tell me how much weight does patient loss weight during chemotherapy
Hello Pranay, Thank you for your question. Each patient can experience different side effects with weight loss. Some patients may not experience weight loss and others may. When it comes to increasing his weight, we suggest high protein and high fat foods. You may start with high protein shakes such as Ensure.