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Malnutrition Worsens Chemotherapy

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Malnutrition Worsens Chemotherapy

Monday March 1, 2010

Just the word "chemotherapy" conjures up negative images for many of us. We think of losing our hair, nausea, and a type of fatigue that goes far beyond being tired. If we knew of something that could make these side-effects worse, we certainly would want to address it.

Malnutrition is one of those "somethings" according to a new study.

Researchers looked at people with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer that were treated with a combination of paclitaxel (Taxol) and cisplatin (Platinol). They found that individuals who were classified as having malnutrition experienced more toxicity - meaning side-effects - overall than those who were not malnourished.

In addition, they found that individuals with a low albumin level (a blood test that can indicate malnutrition) were significantly more likely to experience:

* Anemia

* Fatigue

* Loss of Appetite

Sadly, malnutrition is all too common in people living with lung cancer, and in this study, roughly half of the people involved were considered malnourished. Shortness of breath and the side-effects of treatment can make it difficult to get the calories and protein you need. And even when people with lung cancer seem to be eating enough, having cancer alone can contribute to malnutrition.

The authors suggested that assessing nutrition early on during cancer treatment, and offering support might be helpful in lowering the toxicity of therapy. And the importance of good nutrition reaches beyond lessening the side effects of chemotherapy. Malnutrition is also linked with poorer survival and a reduced quality of life with cancer.

The Bottom Line: Talk with your oncologist about nutrition, and ask what you can do to avoid becoming malnourished, or strengthen your body if your reserves are already low. For some ideas on coping with symptoms that can interfere with eating, check out:

* Coping With Nausea

* Coping With Mouth Sores

* Coping With Taste Changes

* Coping With Loss of Appetite

* Coping With Fatigue


Arrieta, O. et al. Association of nutritional status and serum albumin levels with development of toxicity in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer treated with paclitaxel-cisplatin chemotherapy: a prospective study. BMC Cancer. 2010. DOI:10.1186/1471-2407-10-50.

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