Radiation therapy side effects vary from individual to individual, complicated further by the location where radiotherapy was received. For some patients, weight loss is a side effect that can affect their treatment plan with the oncologist. The reasons for a patient’s weight loss tend to differ as well. Let’s take a look at how much weight you can expect to lose while going through radiotherapy, and why.
Why Do Cancer Patients Lose Weight?
Some cancer patients will lose weight simply because radiotherapy affects their appetite. Especially for patients receiving radiation therapy to the head and neck, certain symptoms can make eating regularly a difficult endeavor: sore or dry mouth, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and changes to how things taste. Cancer patients who get radiation to the abdomen may also experience nausea and vomiting.
How Much Weight Do You Lose During Radiation Treatment?
It’s always better for your health if you maintain your pre-treatment weight. You will discuss this side effect in detail with your radiation oncologist, but the goal will be the same. If you lose too much weight (an upper limit will be set during your first visit), your oncologist may have you stop treatment or have a feeding tube placed. It’s incredibly important that your body has the energy to recover from and repair the damage that radiation causes to your tissues. There’s no set rule for how much weight loss is too much, mainly because everyone’s body and circumstances are uniquely different.
When Will I Start to Lose Weight?
Since the weight loss is a result of decreased appetite and inability to eat, rather than the treatment itself, it may take a few weeks for you to start noticing any weight loss. Remember that this isn’t necessarily a desirable side effect; if you notice the numbers on the scale moving or you are having trouble keeping up with your recommended calorie intake, you need to let your oncologist know.
Coping With Radiotherapy-Related Weight Loss
If your throat and mouth are bothering you while you are trying to eat, try taking an over-the-counter pain medication up to an hour before mealtime. This can help take the edge off so that you can eat a full meal without too much pain. Another trick is to eat softer, warm foods that will soothe your throat rather than irritate it.
It is recommended that you do not consume alcohol when you are undergoing radiotherapy. Alcohol can irritate the mouth, throat, and stomach, making it more difficult to ingest and digest your food properly. You may also find that your tolerance for alcoholic beverages changes dramatically, causing nausea which may complicate your ability to eat full meals.
If you are still struggling to consume enough calories in the form of solid foods, your oncologist may have you work with a dietician. In severe cases, you may be told to take supplemental drinks or have a feeding tube placed.
Radiotherapy in Manhattan
Not sure where to go for your radiation therapy? The professional team at Rosetta Radiology is here for you; we will help you manage any side effects that arise from your treatment so that you can continue with your daily activities with as much comfort as possible. To schedule an appointment with our office, contact us today.