Symptom and Description Loss of
appetite is a loss of the desire to eat. Not eating can lead to
weight loss. Weight loss can cause weakness and fatigue, which
affect your ability to perform normal activities. Proper
nutrition also helps your body prevent and fight infection.
Weight loss or lack of appetite may be due to the cancer or
sometimes to treatments for the cancer.
Learning Needs You will need to learn the possible causes
for loss of appetite and inform your doctor of the signs. You
should report the following causes for loss of appetite.
- Taste changes such as with sugar, salt, caffeine, meats
- Side effects from medications
Prevention/Management Increasing food intake is important
in maintaining your weight. Maintaining your weight will help
you perform your daily activities.
1. Stimulate appetite: Eat small meals five to six times
- Limit liquids around meal time to avoid feeling full
quickly. Take liquids at least 30 minutes before meals.
- Eat high-protein foods such as cheeses, milk, yogurt,
eggs, beans or meats, nuts, puddings.
- Help family members plan meals you would like to eat.
- Eat high-protein, high-carbohydrate snacks between meals.
- Drink juices or milkshakes between meals.
- Eat in pleasant surroundings in the company of
- Allow others to prepare foods to your liking.
- Avoid the area where food is being prepared if aromas
- Serve cold foods if odors bother you.
- Plan light exercise before meals.
- Try new recipes.
- Drink a glass of wine or juice before meals.
- Avoid cigarette smoke or smoking, which can affect your
sense of smell, thus changing sense of taste.
2. Feeling of fullness:
- Avoid high-fat foods.
- Take liquids 30 minutes before meals.
- Chew food slowly.
- Avoid gas-forming foods such as cabbage or broccoli and
carbonated liquids such as beer or soda.
3. Safety considerations:
- Cook all raw protein foods, such as eggs, meats, poultry,
- Thaw frozen foods in refrigerator or microwave, not at
- Wash all fruits and vegetables.
- Use only pasteurized dairy products.
- Wash hands well with soap and water when preparing or
- Use strict cleaning procedures for all utensils and
- Refrigerate all foods in need of refrigeration after
shopping or meal completion.
- Serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Avoid leaving
foods at room temperature.
- Do not use foods beyond expiration dates.
Other methods of appetite stimulation may
include the use of medications approved as appetite stimulants.
The medications are Megace (megestrol acetate), Marinol (dronabinol),
Serostim (recombinant human growth hormone).
- Megestrol acetate (Megace) is a hormone
that has been shown to help increase appetite and weight.
Some of the common side effects are high blood pressure, a
rise in blood sugar, fluid retention, bloating,
constipation, fatigue, gastrointestinal upset, and blood
- Marinol is an antinausea medication that increases
appetite and improve mood. Common side effects include
dizziness, confusion, and sleepiness.
- Serostim is a growth hormone that to increases weight
and reverses muscle wasting. It is usually well tolerated,
but side effects include headache, fluid retention,
nausea, and allergy.
5. Managing side effects:
- Report any side effects to your doctor or nurse.
- Ask if your medication needs changing.
- Keep a log or diary of changes in mood, appetite, or
other feelings you experience while on any of these.
6. Evaluation: Management of weight loss or lack of
appetite is aimed at increasing food intake. To monitor your
- You may be asked to keep a food diary.
- Your weight should be recorded regularly.
Follow-up Notify your nurse and/or physician if any of
the following occur:
- Unable to drink fluids.
- Feeling dizzy when standing.
- Unable to take solid food.
- Change in diet habits.