Cancer-Related Appetite Loss

Cancer-Related Appetite Loss

What is cancer-related appetite loss?

Cancer-related appetite loss is common in those living with cancer and especially with certain kinds of treatment. Changes in appetite can be a result of certain medications or as a result of the cancer itself. Almost all patients will experience cancer-related appetite loss to some degree, but the severity depends on a variety of factors, including the type of cancer and the form of treatment involved.


What are the symptoms of cancer-related appetite loss?

Naturally, the main symptom of cancer-related appetite loss is that the person will eat much less than usual. This may happen quickly or progress gradually over time.

There are also some behavioural changes that can indicate a person is struggling with cancer-related appetite loss. These include:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle degradation
  • Fatigue
  • Disinterest in food
  • Refusing to eat former favourite foods

What causes cancer-related appetite loss?

Cancer-related appetite loss is usually the result of changes in the hormones that regulate hunger, where they become dysfunctional. This may result in appetite loss, altered food preferences, or feeling full early on when eating.

This often comes about as cancer produces inflammation in the body. This swelling many people causes hormone signals to become unbalanced. In particular, cancer-related appetite loss is especially common in people suffering from cancers affecting the gastrointestinal tract, head and neck, liver, and pancreas.

Appetite loss can also be a side-effect of cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.


What treatment options are available for cancer-related appetite loss?

For oncological experts and doctors, it’s vital to manage cancer-related appetite loss carefully. When patients don’t eat, they lose energy and the ability to defend themselves from other infections or even handle some of the tougher cancer treatments.

Most treatment methods focus on adapting behaviour to improve eating habits. These include:

  • Snacking often
  • Flexible mealtimes
  • Making meals appealing and fun
  • Drinking nourishing drinks

There are also some forms of medication that have been known to help stimulate appetite, including steroids, such as dexamethasone, and progestogens, such as medroxyprogesterone.


How can medical cannabis help with cancer-related appetite loss?

Considering how important it is for cancer patients to eat well, trying out new methods to stimulate the appetite is important. Medical cannabis is an alternative route that has been known to help.

For example, a study from 2011, ‘Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol may palliate altered chemosensory perception in cancer patients: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial’ found a dramatic improvement in cancer-related appetite loss.

Indeed, researchers T.D. Brisbois, I.H. de Kock, S.M. Watanabe, N. MacDonald, V.E. Baracos, and W.V. Wismer found that “73% of THC-treated patients reported an increased overall appreciation of food”, as well as helping food taste better for roughly half of people surveyed. With such a large proportion of positive effects, it seems likely that medical cannabis can help to improve the quality of life for cancer patients suffering from appetite loss or disruption, giving them a better chance of beating the disease.

The Medical Cannabis Clinics’ team is dedicated to raising awareness about how medical cannabis can help with a range of health problems, including cancer-related appetite loss. Your prescription can be tailored to suit your individual circumstances and needs, with ongoing support and adjustments made as necessary.

At The Medical Cannabis Clinics, we offer personalised treatment plans and private care for patients through online video link consultations with our expert specialist doctors, who will guide you through the treatment options available from the clinic.

Appointments start from just £70. Book a private consultation today and one of our expert specialist doctors will be able to offer you targeted advice and treatment plans, unique to your needs and symptoms.

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