The side effects discussed previously may make eating difficult, which can cause you to lose weight. Even a small drop in your weight (e.g. 3–4 kg), particularly over a short period of time, may put you at risk of malnutrition. You may be malnourished even if you are overweight.

Significant weight loss and malnutrition can reduce your energy, strength and quality of life. This can affect how you respond to treatment, and side effects may be more severe and your recovery slower. During treatment and recovery, a dietitian can assess whether a feeding tube will help maintain your weight.

Listen to podcasts on Appetite Loss and Nausea and Managing Cancer Fatigue

How to prevent unplanned weight loss

  • Eat small meals frequently.
  • Include high-energy and high-protein foods at every meal or snack. For example, drink milk rather than water and choose cheese and biscuits over lollies.
  • Try ready-to-use nutritional supplement drinks. Examples include Sustagen, Ensure and Resource Fruit Flavoured Beverage. Many pharmacies and supermarkets sell these specially formulated drinks. You don’t need a prescription.
  • If you are having trouble swallowing, talk to a speech pathologist for advice on thickening the supplement.
  • For more information, call 13 11 20 for a copy of Nutrition and Cancer, or download a digital version from this page.

This information was last reviewed in May 2017
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans

Coping with cancer?
Talk with a health professional or someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Cancer information

Nutrition after cancer treatment
Healthy eating habits to help you maintain good nutrition 

Nutrition and cancer help for carers
Tips for preparing food for someone with cancer

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends