Influence of oncological diseases on the nutritional status of patients

Nutritional disorders in people suffering from cancer are extremely common. These problems are manifested by a lack of appetite and difficulties in eating. As a consequence, they lead to weight loss, general body weakness, and may also affect the tolerance of the therapy.

Cancer causes inflammation in the body. Cancer cells secrete substances that suppress the appetite and increase energy consumption. At the same time, structural proteins (mainly derived from muscles) and adipose tissue are broken down. Neoplastic disease can disrupt the functioning of the organs involved in digestion and absorption. This causes patients to experience nausea, gas, vomiting and diarrhea. Worsening gastric problems lead to a situation in which the patient loses the desire to eat, his appetite decreases, he eats too little meals and his body weight decreases.

The same reactions may occur with cancer treatment. The therapy is designed to destroy cancer cells, but it can also damage healthy ones. Its undesirable effects may include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and mouth ulcers. The intensity of their occurrence depends on the type of cancer, place of occurrence, duration of treatment and the dose of medications taken by the patient. The place of cancer also has a significant impact on the nutrition of the patients’ organism. If it is located in the throat or esophagus, it can make swallowing difficult.

Nutritional disorders can be corrected with a proper diet. The patient’s menu should contain products providing protein, energy, rich in vitamins and minerals – this is important both before the start of therapy, during its duration, and during convalescence. However, if we are unable to meet the needs of a sick organism with traditional food products, nutritional support should be considered – for example, through high-energy nutritional supplements intended for medical nutrition.

It should be remembered that the proper nutritional status of the body may translate into a reduction in the risk of postoperative complications, a shorter hospital stay or a reduction in the risk of metabolic complications. This is why supporting the diet of cancer patients with high-energy nutritional supplements is so important.