Cancer treatment side effect: Malnutrition

Getting enough calories and protein helps patients stay strong and fight cancer as well as other infections. But studies show that up to 85% of cancer patients suffer from malnutrition at some point during their cancer treatment. This common cancer treatment side effect occurs when the body doesn’t get or can’t absorb the nutrients it needs. And it’s more common in patients with pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and upper gastrointestinal tract cancer. Malnutrition can be hard to treat, so it’s important to catch it early. The good news is that there are things cancer patients can do to address malnutrition during treatment. We talked with Randi Nicholson, a clinical dietitian at MD Anderson, about what patients should know about malnutrition. Here’s what she had to say. Why do some cancer patients suffer from weight loss or malnutrition? In most cases, weight loss and malnutrition result from appetite loss, which is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Your doctor or dietitian may refer to this as anorexia. Even though it’s not how most people typically think of anorexia, the term simply refers to a loss of appetite. Cancer patients may experience a loss of appetite for any number of reasons. Cancer and cancer treatment can affect how food tastes and smells, so that can impact a person’s desire to eat. Some patients may also suffer from nausea. In some cases, the cancer itself may make it painful for patients to eat or swallow food. Other patients may be able to eat, but their cancer may prevent them from properly digesting their food or absorbing the nutrients. What malnutrition symptoms...

Through bladder cancer treatment, a daughter stands with her dad

When Maja Latham’s father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer, she got aggressive, too. As the “researcher” in her immediate family, Maja had never even heard of bladder cancer until her then 59-year-old father, Andre Stenzel, was diagnosed in 2013. It was only after hours of reading and exploring websites that she learned how many people are impacted by the disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, almost 77,000 patients in the United States were diagnosed with bladder cancer last year. That’s almost 5% of all new cancer cases in the nation.  “I was just blown away by how many people are affected by bladder cancer and how complicated it is,” Maja says.  “It’s often known as an older person’s disease but it’s up to the younger generation – the daughters, sons and grandchildren of patients – to speak up about it and raise awareness.” Choosing MD Anderson for bladder cancer treatment As she researched bladder cancer, treatment options and physicians, it became clear to Maja and her brother that their father needed to get to MD Anderson for a second opinion and expert care. Andre was cared for by a multidisciplinary team in the Genitourinary Center including surgeon Ashish Kamat, M.D., and medical oncologist Arlene Siefker-Radtke, M.D. For Maja and her family, they were the ideal fit to care for their beloved father, a mechanical engineer with a passion for knowledge, fishing and spending time with his grandchildren.   “I just stepped in, as an advocate for both my father and mother, who were pretty overwhelmed,” says the former CPA turned entrepreneur. “Because we are such...