When you are receiving treatments for cancer, it is common to suffer from nausea, vomiting, a lack of appetite, and sometimes difficulty eating and swallowing.
In fact, between 31 and 87 percent of cancer patients not only lose weight during the course of their treatment, but they also become malnourished.
This is a problem because malnutrition leads to higher levels of stress, reduced survival rates, a reduced quality of life, and poorer response to treatment.
Malnutrition is often undiagnosed in cancer patients, so patients do not receive treatment that could help. There a variety of ways to help cancer patients who are malnourished. One such treatment is to provide medication designed to stimulate the appetite.
Some patients are encouraged to use nutritional augmentation such as drinking liquid meal-replacement shakes fortified with protein, vitamins and minerals in addition to their regular meals.
Patients who have difficulty swallowing may be able to use medication which numbs the throat to make swallowing easier. In extreme cases, nutrition can be provided by a feeding tube.
Patients with cancer should be encouraged to eat foods that provide as much nutrition as possible. This includes fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, complex carbohydrates, and lean protein.
Foods that contain “bad” fats (saturated or trans fats), or that are simple carbohydrates such as sugary beverages, desserts, white bread, etc., should be avoided. Simple carbohydrates such as these can increase inflammation as well as causing a sudden increase in blood sugar levels.
Patients should also be encouraged to eat at the times of day that they feel most like eating, and to eat with family and friends for their support.