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How Does Cancer Treatment Lead to Involuntary Weight Loss?

Involuntary weight loss is evident in most cancer patients. Unfortunately, cancer treatment and symptoms lead to weight loss. Also, nausea, difficulty in swallowing due to radiation therapy, mouth sores because of chemotherapy, and growing tumors all lead to involuntary weight loss.

Involuntary weight loss is common in pancreatic cancers, gastrointestinal cancers, and advanced cancers.

Low-Calorie Intake

The body releases tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which leads to a decline in appetite in cancer patients. Cancer patients have trouble swallowing, and the food develops a metallic taste. Therefore, they do not eat as well, and this affects their weight.

The body uses lots of energy to fight cancer. Considering that the patient doesn’t eat well and uses massive energy to fight the disease, it explains the involuntary weight loss. The high metabolism, pain, and low food intake contribute to unintended weight loss.

Also, patients experience anxiety, depression, and mood disorders that lead to weight loss.

Treatments to Counteract Involuntary Weight Loss

If a cancer patient experiences a 5% weight loss, they need to notify their oncologists. A healthy weight enhances the efficiency of cancer treatment.

Fortunately, there are proven ways to maintain a healthy weight. However, patients must rely on their care team to provide the necessary care. 

The treatment options include:

  • Counseling to reduce anxiety and depression
  • Beta-blockers to eliminate hypermetabolism
  • Anti-depressants for mood disorder and stress
  • Antiemetics to control nausea
  • Anxiolytics to combat anxiety
  • Testosterone hormonal supplements
  • Anti-inflammatories to eliminate inflammation

Clinical Trials Related to Involuntary Weight Loss

Two clinical trials are underway to address involuntary weight loss in the cancer patient.

The first one focuses on psychological factors related to weight loss. It concentrates on cancer-inducedcachexia and anorexia in patients with depression and anxiety.

The second clinical trial focuses on a drug called anamorelin. Researchers want to find out if they can manipulate ghrelin- an appetite hormone to lead to weight gain.

Once weight loss sets in, it affects treatment outcomes, so cancer patients should inform their caregivers if they notice weight loss more than 5% of their total weight.

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