C Shaw, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust,
© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Many patients with cancer experience nutritional problems during their treatment. The physiological effects of malignancy can cause increased nutritional requirements and a reduced nutritional intake. Anticancer treatment can produce side effects, including anorexia, mucositis, nausea, and vomiting, that can further reduce nutritional intake.
Weight loss and nutritional depletion of the cancer patient may interfere with anticancer treatment. Patients with cancer who lose weight may have a reduced tolerance to treatment due to poor wound healing and an increased susceptibility to infection. Weight loss may also contribute to a poor quality of life. Nutritional support of patients with cancer should be an integral part of treatment. Modification of oral intake may be sufficient to maintain nutritional status. There is also interest in nutrients that may modify cachexia in patients for whom altered metabolism is also contributing to weight loss. If the patient is unable to take sufficient nutrition orally, then food may be given through an enteral tube. Parenteral nutrition may be required when the gastrointestinal tract cannot be used.
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