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  • Writer's pictureThe After Cancer

Weight loss in cancer patients: causes, symptoms, and management

Cancer patient cooking a healthy meal after seeing a nutritionist in the after cancer clinic as he unexpectedly lost weight during his cancer treatments.

Unexplained weight loss is a common occurrence in people with cancer, and it can be a cause of concern for both the patient and their caregivers. Weight loss in cancer patients can occur due to a variety of reasons, including cancer itself, cancer treatments, and other medical conditions. In this article, we will explore the causes and symptoms of weight loss in cancer patients and discuss ways to manage it.

Why do cancer patients lose weight?

Cancer can cause weight loss in several ways. Firstly, cancer cells consume a lot of energy, which can lead to a decrease in appetite and a loss of weight. Secondly, cancer can cause inflammation, which can further reduce appetite and lead to weight loss. Lastly, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can lead to weight loss.

Symptoms of weight loss in cancer patients

Weight loss is not always noticeable in the early stages of cancer. However, as cancer progresses, weight loss can become more apparent. Some symptoms of weight loss in cancer patients include:

  • Clothes feeling looser

  • A decrease in appetite

  • Reduced energy levels

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • Muscle wasting

  • Loss of body fat

Management of weight loss in cancer patients

The management of weight loss in cancer patients depends on the underlying cause. If the weight loss is due to cancer treatments, the doctor may adjust the treatment plan to minimize side effects such as nausea and vomiting. The doctor may also recommend medication to stimulate appetite or manage other symptoms that are contributing to weight loss.

In addition to medical interventions, there are several things that cancer patients can do to manage weight loss. These include:

  1. Eating frequent small meals: Eating small, frequent meals can help maintain energy levels and prevent weight loss.

  2. Eating high-calorie, high-protein foods: Eating foods that are high in calories and protein can help maintain muscle mass and prevent further weight loss.

  3. Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids, such as water and juice, can help prevent dehydration and maintain energy levels.

  4. Light exercise: Engaging in light exercises, such as walking or yoga, can help maintain muscle mass and prevent further weight loss.

  5. Seeking support: Cancer patients should seek support from nutritionists, nurses or coaches to help manage weight loss and any other symptoms associated with cancer.


Weight loss is a common occurrence in cancer patients and can be caused by a variety of factors. If you or a loved one is experiencing unexplained weight loss, it is important to speak to a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan. With the right management and support, it is possible to manage weight loss in cancer patients and improve their quality of life.


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