Appetite loss (anorexia) is common for patients with cancer. Changes in appetite may be secondary to the cancer itself or side effects of treatment.
In patients with cancer the hormones that regulate hunger become dysfunctional. This may result in appetite loss, altered food preferences, or an earlier sensation of fullness whilst eating.
Almost all cancer patients will experience some form of change in appetite. Management of appetite loss in cancer is an important part of therapy to allow patients to adapt to the challenges of cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Almost all cancer patients will experience some form of change in appetite.
50-80% of cancer patients will go on to develop cachexia, a disorder characterised by weight loss, anorexia, loss of muscle mass, inflammation and decline in function.
This has a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life and is associated with poorer outcomes.
Cancer-Related Appetite Loss Treatment
In people with cancer appetite loss can be distressing due to its association with significant weight loss and impairment in function.
Simple measures can be very affective at helping improve appetite, including: frequent snacking, flexible mealtimes, making meals appealing and fun, and drinking nourishing drinks.
In addition to these, it is possible to stimulate appetite through medications called steroids (e.g. dexamethasone) and progestogens (e.g. medroxyprogesterone).
Medical cannabis can be considered when first line therapies have not achieved adequate symptom control.