What Type of Cancer Causes Loss of Appetite?
We may talk about all types of cancer as though they are the same illness, but the truth is that each variety of this deadly disease is its own unique ailment – though the types are often closely related. Cancer of the stomach may behave differently and have different effects compared to cancer of the brain or bone marrow, but each has the potential to wreak havoc on a patient’s body. The symptoms of cancer can take many forms, and in some cases, there are no symptoms at all until the disease has progressed. One symptom often associated with cancer and its treatments is a loss of appetite, which frequently leads to unwanted weight loss and can require the use of liquid nutritional supplements. So, what type of cancer causes a loss of appetite, and is there anything a patient can do about it? To find out, keep reading as the people at ENU explain.
Common Symptoms of Cancer
Because cancer can affect any tissue in the body, it is virtually impossible to generalize about the symptoms of this condition. Essentially, cancer leads to abnormal activity in the cells it infects; cancer of the bladder may cause blood to appear in a patient’s urine, for example, but that same symptom would probably not show up in a person with leukemia or breast cancer.
Despite the unpredictability of these symptoms, however, there are a few hallmarks to look out for when trying to identify the presence of cancer. One relatively common symptom is the appearance of blood where it shouldn’t be, such as in the saliva, urine, or stool. Any lumps, including those that are painless, should also be checked out; keep in mind that these can show up inside the body, which explains why some cancer patients report the sensation of having something pressing against their esophagus, stomach, or other internal organs.
More severe symptoms can be scarier but are easier to spot. A brain tumor can cause significant neurological changes – seizures or a loss of vision, for instance – that hint at the presence of cancer, but more often the symptoms are less clear: A persistent cough or unexplained bruise could indicate this disease as well, though they typically signify only a minor illness. If you have symptoms that linger for more than a week or two, getting them checked out by your doctor can provide some answers either way.
Effects of Cancer on Appetite
In the majority of cases, the onset of cancer has little effect on hunger, though more advanced forms of the disease can cause fundamental changes in a patient’s metabolism; when this happens, the patient can sometimes experience changes in appetite. Specific kinds of cancer can also have an indirect impact on a patient’s appetite, such as if a tumor in the abdomen presses on the stomach, which can create a feeling of fullness. Leukemia and lymphoma can lead to a similar issue, as they can cause the spleen to enlarge, which creates feelings of fullness as well.
More often, however, a patient’s appetite changes are the result of a cancer treatment, rather than of the disease itself. Chemotherapy and certain forms of radiation can lead to a loss of appetite, either directly or by causing a side effect that interferes with eating. For instance, acute nausea is a very common side effect of chemo and other cancer treatments, and it can make a patient less hungry as it persists. Other side effects that can cause a loss of appetite include mouth sores, trouble swallowing, changes in taste, chronic nerve pain, or the onset of depression.
Coping with a Loss of Appetite During Cancer
Most of the time, the primary treatment for a loss of appetite would be to find the underlying cause and treat it, but cancer patients seldom have that option. Instead, the best most patients can do is to try and mitigate their symptoms and get as many calories and nutrients as they can throughout their day. Below are a few tips for improving appetite during cancer:
- Practice good oral hygiene – This one may seem like a no-brainer, but oral hygiene becomes even more important while battling cancer. Keeping your mouth clean and healthy can reduce the severity of the mouth sores and taste changes that sometimes accompany chemo, which can lead to a stronger appetite.
- Spread out your meals – Rather than eating three big meals, try picking at more frequent, smaller meals throughout your day. Also, keep snacks on hand in case your appetite makes a brief appearance, and try to build any meal schedule around the times of day when you are most hungry.
- Focus on calories – If you’re struggling to keep your weight up during your treatments, try to focus more on high-calorie foods and drinks. That could mean drinking a protein shake for cancer patients, eating snack foods, or cooking with fatty oils and condiments – whatever gives your body the energy it needs.
If you are having a hard time eating or maintaining a healthy weight during your cancer treatments, talk to a nutritionist or your cancer care team. Your doctor may be able to make adjustments to your treatment type or schedule, which could boost your appetite; even if that’s not an option, a dietician or medical nutrition support specialist may be able to help you make lifestyle changes that improve your condition.
Balanced, Convenient Nutrition Available from ENU
Sometimes, preparing a meal is just too much work, especially for a cancer patient. That’s why ENU offers wholesome, balanced nutrition in the form of our meal replacement shakes; if you have trouble chewing or swallowing – or if you have any of the myriad side effects that can impact a patient’s appetite – a shake from ENU can provide the calories and nutrients your body needs to keep fighting. To learn more about our shakes and how they can help you or someone you know, visit ENU online or call (855) 266-6733 today.