Is loss of appetite common among chemotherapy patients?

Yes, loss of appetite is very common among chemotherapy patients.

What causes it?

It can be caused by nausea or vomiting, by anxiety, by depression, or by the cancer itself. Loss of appetite can also be caused by changes in the sense of taste and smell that chemotherapy can cause.

How long does it last?

Usually it is a temporary problem that can be resolved quickly.

Can loss of appetite cause complications?

Loss of appetite, in the most serious cases, causes a decrease in the assumption of important nutritive elements (sugars, proteins, vitamins, mineral salts), which leads to weight loss. This can weaken the patient’s immune system exposing her/him to eventual complications, as well as lowering her/his tolerance to chemotherapy and negatively affecting her/his mental state.

What should you eat if you have loss of appetite?

Choose foods high in calories (eggs, meat, fish, cheese, sweets).

How can you increase caloric intake?

Enrich your food with cheese, butter, oil, ham or mince meat, “reinforced” milk (that is, milk with added powdered milk).

When should you eat?

It is not necessary to eat at specific times. It is important to eat when you are hungry and eat many (up to 6-8) small meals a day. It can help to have your favourite food readily available.

Does it help to have a big breakfast?

Yes! The morning is when you usually are more hungry, so it is advisable to have a big breakfast followed by a mid-morning snack. You should aim to consume a third of your daily calories in the morning.

How should you present food?

Use small plates with moderate portions. Follow your taste in food. Present each plate separately.

Can you drink alcohol?

In small quantities. Alcohol before meals can stimolate appetite.

What should you use to sweeten food?

It is preferable to use honey in order to increase calorie consumption.

How can your family help?

They should not make your diet the focus of conversation. During meals they should create a relaxed atmosphere. They should set the table with care. They should avoid cooking in your presence. You should eat together.

Should you take supplements?

They can be helpful if your doctor advises taking them and if they are taken under medical supervision.

What should you do if you have trouble swallowing or chewing?

You can eat food that is blended or minced and take food supplements. Jelly, puddings, and yoghurt are good in these cases.

Can you use medicine to stimulate your appetite?

In some cases, yes! These drugs, however, should be limited to severe cases of loss of appetite that involve considerable weight loss and must be prescribed by a doctor.

When should you consult your doctor?

If you lose more than 3kg in a week; if you experience pain during meals; if the quantity of urine decreases and/or if signs of dehydration appear such as a dry tongue, skin that is dry and not elastic, cramps, tiredness, sleepiness, listlessness and a state of confusion.