"Anorexia, cachexia and tumors are common causes of malnutrition in cancer patients.
- Anorexia (the loss of appetite or desire to eat) is a common symptom in people with cancer. Anorexia may occur early in the disease or later, when the tumor grows and spreads. Some patients may have anorexia when they are diagnosed with cancer. Almost all patients who have widespread cancer will develop anorexia. Anorexia is the most common cause of malnutrition in cancer patients.
- Cachexia is a wasting syndrome that causes weakness and a loss of weight, fat and muscle. Anorexia and cachexia often occur together. Cachexia can occur in people who are eating enough, but who cannot absorb the nutrients. Cachexia is not related to the tumor size, type, or extent. Cancer cachexia is not the same as starvation. A healthy person's body can adjust to starvation by slowing down its use of nutrients, but in cancer patients, the body does not make this adjustment.
- Tumors may produce chemicals that change the way the body uses certain nutrients. The body's use of protein, carbohydrates, and fat may be affected, especially by tumors of the stomach or intestines. A patient may appear to be eating enough, but the body may not be able to absorb all the nutrients from the food. Diets higher in protein and calories can help correct this and prevent the onset of cachexia. It is important to monitor nutrition early, as cachexia is difficult to completely reverse."2
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. US Food and Drug Administration. Food Safety for People with Cancer. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/PeopleAtRisk/ucm312565.htm. Accessed Feb 16, 2017.
2. Mount Sinai Medical Center. Nutrition in Cancer Care. https://www.msccc.com/cancer-resources/nutrition-in-cancer-care. Accessed Feb 16, 2017.