Changes in appetite is a common problem for patients with cancer. Appetite loss, also known as anorexia, describes the feeling of not being hungry and having no desire to eat or taste any food. One will then eat less than usual or feel full after eating just small amounts of food. If appetite loss is prolonged, it can lead to insufficient nutrients in your body, unhealthy weight loss and slower recovery.
Eating well is important, particularly during cancer treatment. It can help you cope better with side effects and fight any infections better. Your body will also be able to rebuild healthy tissues faster. It is thus important to speak to your doctor or nurse if you lose your appetite.
Causes of Appetite loss
Appetite loss can be temporary or it can last longer, depending on its cause and treatment. Some causes of appetite loss are:
What you need to look out for
How it can be treated
Your doctor will ask you further questions (e.g. when it started, associated symptoms) and conduct a physical examination, to determine the cause of your appetite loss. Your doctor may also order for further investigations (e.g. x-rays) if needed. As the treatment for appetite loss depends on its cause, your healthcare team will be able to advise you in detail on the management plan that is most suited to your condition.
Some common treatment approaches include:
What you can do
The following are some of the do’s and don’ts to help you to eat better, alongside the treatment for your appetite loss. If you have problems of dry mouth, mouth ulcers or taste changes, you may go to the individual pages to learn more about what you can do.
Meals and food
When to call your cancer care team
Please inform your doctor or nurse if you experience any appetite loss, or if you experience any of the following that can indicate complications of your condition:
If you have any questions regarding the above, please call the Cancer Helpline at +65 6225 5655 or approach your doctor or nurse for further details.
The above contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers.
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