Poor appetite and weight loss
Some people stop feeling interested in eating and lose weight before lung cancer is diagnosed. These symptoms may be caused by the disease itself, or by feeling sick, having difficulty swallowing, being breathless, or feeling down.
Weight loss can affect how your body responds to cancer treatment, chances of infection, and recovery. This can happen to anyone, no matter what size or shape. Eating well will help you cope better with day-to-day living, treatment and side effects, and improve your quality of life.
Eating when you have little appetite
- Choose high-kilojoule and high-protein foods (e.g. add cheese or cream to meals).
- Try eating smaller portions more often (e.g. 5–6 smaller meals per day).
- Avoid drinking fluids at mealtimes, which can fill you up too quickly.
- Eat moist food such as scrambled eggs. If you have a sore mouth, moist foods tend to cause less irritation.
- Eat fresh salads or cold foods if hot food smells make you feel sick. Avoid fatty or sugary foods if these make you feel sick.
- Add ice-cream or fruit to a drink to increase kilojoules.
- Eat more of your favourite foods – follow your cravings.
- Talk to a dietitian for more tips on what to eat – they can suggest small changes to your diet that can help you stay well nourished.
- Ask your dietitian if you need to use protein drinks or nutritional supplements and which ones to buy.
For more on this, see Nutrition for people living with cancer.
Podcast: Appetite Loss and Nausea
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Brett Hughes, Senior Staff Specialist Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, The Prince Charles Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Dr Brendan Dougherty, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine Specialist, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Kim Greco, Nurse Consultant – Lung Cancer, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Susan Harden, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Rohit Joshi, Medical Oncologist, GenesisCare and Lyell McEwin Hospital, Director, Cancer Research SA; Kathlene Robson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council ACT; Peter Spolc, Consumer; Nicole Taylor, Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Rosemary Taylor, Consumer; A/Prof Gavin M Wright, Director of Surgical Oncology, St Vincent’s Hospital and Research and Education Lead – Lung Cancer, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC.
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