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Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer and Appetite Loss

  • Ask the Nutritionist

    Q: My friend who was diagnosed with extensive stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer over a year ago has lost 25 lbs and lacks an appetite. We have tried so many ways to help him get calories but nothing has worked. What are your suggestions?

    Buxton, ME

    A: Weight and appetite loss during cancer treatment is very common. Taste changes can make eating less desirable, while the metabolic changes in the body make it even more difficult to maintain a stable weight. It sounds like your friend has already tried some of the common tactics for increasing the enjoyability of meals. Some other suggestions include using smaller plates or cups so that portion sizes don't seem as intimidating; including more calorie dense (nutritious) foods, like adding nut butter to a smoothie, or avocados on whole grain bread.

    Another suggestion would be to help your friend preserve his energy for eating, meaning that someone else could prepare his meals for him, or pack a cooler he can take with him when he's on the go. A great tip to add more calories to smoothies and shakes is to add full-fat yogurt, healthy oils, coconut milk, nut butter, and avocado. He should always consult his doctors and care team if he is considering changing his diet, to make sure that he is making the best possible choices for his treatment plan.

    Other ideas to increase caloric intake include making the room more calm with candles, special plate settings, or calming music; practicing meditation before eating; and increasing the social aspects of eating through conversation.

  • Nutrition & Diet
  • Dana-Farber Nutrition Team

    Meet Our Nutritionists

    Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center has one of the largest outpatient oncology nutrition departments in the United States. Our team is a diverse set of professionals, each with a specialized area of expertise.

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    Nutrition Services

    Our nutrition experts help patients follow a healthy diet during and after cancer treatment.
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    Eating Well During Cancer Video Series

    This video series and resource toolkit features Dana-Farber nutrition specialist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, and explores how diet can help support your health and wellbeing during and after cancer treatment.