Weight loss has an impact on cancer survival

Weight loss is one of the most common side effects in people diagnosed with cancer. Often occurring prior to diagnosis, weight loss can be exacerbated by nausea, sickness and loss of appetite during treatment.

Although weight loss can be welcomed by some patients, cancer affects the protective muscle tissue (‘lean body mass’) needed to keep the body strong, rather than the fat tissue. This loss of muscle is called ‘cachexia’. It not only causes fatigue and poor physical function – it also leads to a reduction in BMI which can affect the body’s ability to tolerate cancer treatment.

An optimal chemotherapy dose is usually calculated, per patient, depending on their weight and height. Any changes from first diagnosis could affect treatment dose, or even delay it. Therefore, by maintaining good nutritional intake, patients can help reduce the risk of losing additional muscle weight in the future. This can help support the body can better tolerate treatment. However, maintaining weight doesn’t mean just eating more higher calorie foods.

A healthcare professional may recommend medical nutrition. Medical nutrition is specially formulated to give the body the right nutritional balance and support patients during chemotherapy. Medical nutrition as prescribed by a healthcare professional, can be taken in between, or along with, regular meals to give your body the extra reserve to help prevent any additional weight loss.

  1. Ryan et al. Proc Nutr Soc. 2016;75(2):199-211.