Poor appetite is a common nutritional
challenge among pancreatic cancer patients. Sometimes surgery, prescription
drugs or the cancer itself can change the way food tastes or cause the
patient’s appetite to decrease.
These tips may help improve
the patient’s interest in eating and increase their appetite:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Exercise lightly before meals to stimulate appetite. Even a
short walk may be invigorating.
- Select enjoyable foods and foods that have a pleasant aroma.
- Plan meals the day before eating them. Have someone help plan
and prepare meals.
- Stay well hydrated. Drink 6-8 cups of clear liquids throughout the
- Aim for 5-6 small meals and snacks per day. Take advantage of
the time of day when most hungry. Substitute a meal with a medical
food supplement or a smoothie made with protein powder with consultation
from your medical team.
- Boost® products, Ensure® products and/or Carnation® Instant Breakfast®
products add calories and protein.
- Scandical®, Benecalorie® and Beneprotein® add calories or protein
when accompanying regular meals.
- Place small bowls of nutritional snacks, such as nuts and fruits,
in frequently-used areas of the home to encourage healthy snacking between
- Take anti-nausea medication at the first sign of queasiness or nausea.
Delay eating favorite foods if feeling nauseous.
- Arrange food attractively:
- Vary the colors of foods on a plate
- Use garnishes such as lemon or lime wedges
- Make mealtimes pleasing:
- Add color to a place setting
- Watch a favorite television show or movie
- Play music in the room
- Use a large plate and put small portions on it. By doing this, the
amount of food may appear less overwhelming.
- Manage taste changes if these are contributing to decreased appetite.
- Marinate red meats before cooking if they taste strong. Or,
substitute red meat with fish, chicken, eggs, low-fat cheese or vegetarian
- Protein foods, such as cheese, tuna, chicken, lean ham, egg salads,
deviled eggs, milkshakes, eggnogs, puddings and custards, may taste
better at room temperature. Eat high-protein foods within an hour of
taking them out of the refrigerator.
- Use fresh fruits to add flavor to milkshakes, puddings, and custards.
- Try seasonings or spices such as lemon juice, mint, basil and other
herbs to perk up the taste and smell of food. Add sugar and salt
to foods if intake is not restricted.
If poor appetite and weight
loss persist, the doctor may prescribe medication to increase appetite.
Some of these medications are listed below. It can take several weeks
of use before appetite enhancement occurs. Many of these medications have
side effects that should be discussed with the doctor.
- Megestrol acetate (Megace® or Megace ES®)
- Dronabinol (Marinol®)
- Steroids such as prednisone or dexamethasone
- Anti-depressants such as mirtazapine (Remeron®)
For more information on pancreatic
cancer, including information about medical nutritional supplements and
medications to improve appetite, please contact a Patient and Liaison
Services (PALS) Associate toll-free at 877-272-6226 or email email@example.com.
PALS Associates are available M-F 7am-5pm Pacific Time.
The information and services provided by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. are for informational purposes only. The information and services are not intended to be substitutes for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are ill, or suspect that you are ill, see a doctor immediately! The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network does not recommend nor endorse any specific physicians, products or treatments even though they may be mentioned on this site. In addition, please note that any personal information you provide to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's associates during telephone and/or email consultations may be stored in a secure database to assist the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. in providing you with the best service possible. Portions of the constituent data stored in this database may be used to inform future programs and services of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc., and may be provided in aggregate form to third parties to guide future pancreatic cancer research and treatment efforts. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. will not provide personal identifying information (such as your name or contact information) to third parties without your advanced written consent. 110913