Nutritional support/artificial feeding and cancer

Cancer or some cancer treatments can sometimes lead to weight loss. and malnutrition.

Malnutrition is when the body is not getting enough vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to keep it healthy. This may happen if you have a reduced appetite or difficulty swallowing.

You may only have these problems for a short time. Making changes to your diet or taking nutritious food or drink supplements may help. But for some people this will not be enough to keep their weight up, or they may have swallowing problems which make eating or drinking difficult.

If you are not able to eat or drink enough, your doctor or dietitian may talk to you about nutritional support (artificial feeding). This can:

  • reduce weight loss
  • help you maintain or put on weight
  • help with any weakness or tiredness caused by not eating or drinking enough
  • help you get enough fluids
  • ease the pressure of having to eat - for example, if you have problems swallowing and find it difficult to eat.

When nutritional support is used

Nutritional support can be used if you:

  • have weight loss (usually 10% or more of your body weight) that is not helped by dietary supplements
  • have been unable to eat or drink enough and dietary supplements have not helped
  • has difficulty swallowing - for example due to cancer of the throat or gullet, or because of a sore mouth due to radiotherapy