Poor appetite and weight loss
Because the liver plays a key role in the digestive system, cirrhosis and cancer in the liver can both cause you to lose your appetite and you may lose weight. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other cancer treatments can also have an impact, especially if you experience side effects such as nausea and vomiting, mouth ulcers, and taste and smell changes.
During and after treatment, it’s important to make sure you are eating and drinking enough. The tips below can help you prevent or manage appetite changes and weight loss after a diagnosis of liver cancer.
How to stay well nourished
- Snack during the day – eat 5–6 small meals rather than three large ones each day.
- Ask your family and friends to cook for you and offer you food throughout the day.
- Keep a selection of snacks handy, e.g. in your bag or car.
- Try eating different foods. Your taste and tolerance for some foods may have changed and may continue to change.
- Ask your dietitian how you can increase your energy and protein intake.
- Eat when you feel hungry or crave certain foods, but be careful not to become too full by eating too quickly.
- Ensure you have room for nourishing food – avoid filling up on liquids at mealtimes, unless it’s a hearty soup.
- Prevent dehydration by drinking liquids between meals (e.g. 30–60 minutes before or after meals).
- See Nutrition and cancer for more information and recipes.
Listen to our podcast on Appetite Loss and Nausea
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr David Yeo, Hepatobiliary/Transplant Surgeon, Royal Prince Alfred, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Cancer Centre and St George Hospitals, NSW; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Michael Coulson, Consumer; Dr Sam Davis, Interventional Radiologist, Staff Specialist, Royal Brisbane and Women‘s Hospital, QLD; Prof Chris Karapetis, Network Clinical Director (Cancer Services), Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, SA; Dr Howard Liu, Radiation Oncologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Lina Sharma, Consumer; Dr Graham Starkey, Hepato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Austin Hospital, VIC; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital and Health Services, ACT; Dr Michael Wallace, Western Australia Liver Transplant Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
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