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Unexplained Weight Loss in Mesothelioma Patients

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on April 25, 2022

Unexplained weight loss is a common side effect of mesothelioma as well as its treatment. The symptoms of mesothelioma cancer can diminish a patient’s ability to eat, while chemotherapy can affect appetite – resulting in a patient losing weight unintentionally. It is important to manage weight loss in a mesothelioma patient so that it does not interfere with the patient’s treatment plan or recovery. The Williams Law Firm is here to help you understand your situation and your options.

Why Do Mesothelioma Patients Experience Weight Loss?

Unexplained weight loss can accompany a mesothelioma diagnosis due to the side effects and symptoms of the cancer. Pleural mesothelioma, for example, affects the throat and can cause difficulty swallowing and trouble breathing. This can make it more difficult to eat and enjoy food. Likewise, peritoneal mesothelioma, also known as abdominal mesothelioma, can cause nausea, stomach pain and swelling of the abdomen, making it more difficult to eat and keep food down.

In addition to the cancer itself causing weight loss in a mesothelioma patient, mesothelioma treatment can contribute to nausea and loss of appetite. These are common side effects of chemotherapy used for cancer treatment. A patient who undergoes chemotherapy for mesothelioma may feel weak, sick or otherwise impacted by the treatment in a way that interferes with diet.

The Dangers of Unintentional Weight Loss for a Person With Mesothelioma

If a person with mesothelioma loses weight without dieting or trying, it is cause for concern. Unexplained weight loss is a common presentation in mesothelioma patients that should not be ignored or taken lightly. The patient’s body may not respond to weight loss in a healthy way while dealing with cancer. Without the ability to use fat as fuel, the stress of malignant tumors and chemotherapy treatments can take a toll on the patient’s body in the form of “muscle wasting.”

Patients who experience unintentional weight loss with mesothelioma often end up burning lean tissue instead of fat to sustain the body during cancer treatment. This can be problematic, as lean tissue consists of important muscle tissues, immune cells, platelets and red blood cells. This can result in the patient feeling more fatigued and depleted from mesothelioma treatment. It can also result in more severe side effects from chemotherapy and the possibility of necessary treatment breaks that can hinder recovery.

How to Manage Weight Loss as a Mesothelioma Patient

Eating well can help a mesothelioma patient in many ways. Maintaining a healthy and varied diet can help a patient cope with a cancer diagnosis, undergo treatments and handle related side effects, improve quality of life, and enjoy day-to-day living more. If you are a mesothelioma patient or are taking care of a loved one with mesothelioma, use the following tips to help manage weight loss:

  • Consult with a registered dietitian to develop a personalized eating plan.
  • Make your nutrition and diet a priority.
  • Eat multiple small meals and light snacks throughout the day rather than three large meals.
  • Try moist foods, as they are often easier to eat, swallow and digest, especially with a sore mouth.
  • Implement more proteins and high-calorie foods to meet your nutritional needs.
  • Avoid foods that can contribute to nausea, such as sugary desserts or fatty foods.
  • Don’t fill up on water – be sure to leave room for solid, nutrient-dense foods.
  • If you can’t manage solid foods, try protein drinks and liquid supplements (after speaking to a dietitian).
  • Consider a feeding tube or special nutritional formula in a severe case of unexplained weight loss or inability to eat.
  • If your mental health is contributing to a loss of appetite, see a psychiatrist for help.

Talk to your doctor about your struggle to maintain a healthy weight as a patient with mesothelioma. Your doctor can connect you to a registered dietitian to help you figure out what foods you need and how to work around your aversions, whether they are physical or emotional. Managing your weight during your mesothelioma journey is important for your prognosis, health outcome and future.