HealthSudden weight loss, a warning sign of underlying cancer

Sudden weight loss, a warning sign of underlying cancer

Did you suddenly lose weight? Run to the doctor.
Did you suddenly lose weight? Run to the doctor.
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12:13 PM EST, January 15, 2024

According to the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN), unintended weight loss between 5-10 percent in six months, or 10-20 percent over a period exceeding six months, necessitates a medical examination by a specialist.

Sudden, uncontrolled weight loss is typically one of the initial symptoms of lung, esophageal, stomach, and pancreatic cancers. It can also occur with other cancer types, such as ovarian cancer, where a tumor pressing on the stomach may cause a feeling of fullness.

The Connection between Cancer and Weight Loss

Cancer cells, which grow and divide at a rate faster than normal cells, demand extra energy from the body. Therefore, despite a stable appetite and calorie intake, one might observe weight loss due to increased metabolism.

Cancer can also adversely influence hormones that are responsible for appetite regulation, cause breakdown of fat and muscle tissue, and lead to issues with nausea, chewing, swallowing, digestion, and nutrient absorption.

Some of these symptoms cause direct weight loss, while others take a more circuitous route to the same outcome, often through a diminished appetite.

Besides, weight loss may be related to treatment side effects such as those from chemotherapy, or the emotional stress linked to the diagnosis itself.

Cancer Cachexia

In advanced stages of cancer, one might develop cancer cachexia - a multifactorial syndrome of metabolic disorders leading to severe weight loss, which is a common problem among people with advanced cancer.

At times, cachexia might temporarily hinder the progression of oncological treatment.

Nutritional Requirements for Cancer Patients

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in battling cancer. An appropriate diet should:

  • Maintain proper body weight and prevent malnutrition,
  • Boost the body's defense mechanisms,
  • Be easily digestible (avoid fried, smoked, and preserved dishes, as well as hot spices and stimulants),
  • Meet the patient's increased energy and protein needs,
  • Spare the affected organs, particularly if the cancer impacts the digestive system,
  • Ensure adequate fluid intake.
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