Loss of appetite
Many people find they do not feel like eating as they near the end of life. This loss of appetite may be because of the cancer itself or symptoms such as pain, nausea, constipation or breathlessness, or because the body’s energy needs have slowed down and it’s no longer necessary to eat as much.
Don’t force yourself to eat – eating more than you feel like may only make you uncomfortable, and can cause vomiting and stomach pain. Try having small meals or eating your favourite foods more frequently. You could also eat soft foods or have food-type nutritional supplements. Ask your doctor, nurse or dietitian to recommend something suitable; some are available as ready-made drinks at pharmacies.
It’s common for family and friends to want to encourage you to eat, as preparing food for you is how they show they care. You may need to let them know that you don’t feel like eating, and suggest other ways they can show their love, such as sitting with you. See How you can help in the final stages for ways others can offer comfort.
For more on this, see Nutrition and cancer.
Podcast: Appetite Loss and Nausea
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
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