Cancer-Related Appetite Loss

Cancer-Related Appetite Loss – is a common side effect in patients with cancer. This may be due to the cancer itself or as aside effect of associated treatments. Most patients with cancer will experience some sort of change to their appetite to some degree, but the extent of this can depend on multiple factors, such as the type of cancer and treatment.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of appetite loss is usually a reduction in food intake. This may happen suddenly, or progress over a larger period of time. However, there are a number of other symptoms associated with appetite loss, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle degradation
  • Fatigue

A large proportion of cancer patients (50-80%) will go on to develop cachexia (a condition associated with extreme weight loss and muscle wasting) which can have a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life and is often associated with poorer outcomes.

Cause and treatment

Appetite loss in patients with Cancer is usually considered to be the cause of changes in the levels of hormones that regulate hunger. This can lead to a loss of appetite, changes in food preferences, or feeling full earlier when eating.

This is often linked to inflammation in the body, which in many people, causes the signals from these hormones to become unbalanced. Cancers affecting the gastrointestinal tract, head, neck and liver present a particularly high risk of patients developing anorexia, malnutrition, and weight loss. Appetite loss can also be a side effect of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and some surgeries.

The effective treatment of Cancer-Related Appetite Loss is extremely important as it can affect the patient’s energy levels and the ability of their bodies to protect itself from other dangers, such as infections or the effects of other cancer treatments.

Simple measures such as encouraging frequent snacking, flexible mealtimes and drinking nourishing drinks, as well as attempting to make mealtimes fun and appealing, can often be effective. In some cases, medications may also be used to stimulate appetite, including steroids and progestogens.

Medical Cannabis and Cancer-Related Appetite Loss

Cannabis has long been thought to be an appetite stimulant, making it a potentially useful therapies in patients where first-line therapies have been ineffective. A number of studies have found that THC, in particular, can promote significant improvements in appetite loss.

Our specialist physicians are experienced in assessing individual cases and helping to determine whether medical cannabis could be an effective option.