Loss of appetite
Loss of appetite is when you don’t feel hungry, or don’t feel like eating. This can be caused by cancer, cancer treatments or other health problems. The medical term for loss of appetite is anorexia.
It is important to eat and drink enough when you have cancer. If you are having trouble eating, talk to your doctor, nurse or dietitian.
Know what to expect
There are several reasons why cancer and cancer treatments can cause a loss of appetite. These include:
- depression or anxiety
- mouth problems
- changes to smell and taste
- some medications
Ask your doctor if you are likely to lose your appetite, and how this can be managed.
Start a symptom diary
Keeping track of your symptoms can help you and your cancer care team to manage them better.
Talk to your doctor or nurse to see if there is a diary they recommend, or use the example in the resources provided on this page.
Know who to contact if you have a problem
Ask your doctor or nurse:
- when you should call for help or advice
- who you should contact
- how to contact them (including at night or weekends).
Keep this information where you can easily find it.
Managing loss of appetite
If you start to lose your appetite, talk to your doctor or nurse about this.
The best way to control loss of appetite is to treat the causes, e.g. nausea or pain. If you know what is causing your loss of appetite, or making it worse, ask what can be done to treat this.
You may need to change your diet to stop you losing weight. You can ask to see a dietitian for advice.
Severe loss of appetite
Losing your appetite can sometimes lead to serious problems including:
- weight loss
- muscle wasting
- loss of strength
- increased risk of infection and slow healing.
If you are worried about your appetite, don’t feel like eating, or are losing weight, contact your cancer care team for advice.
Occasionally, if you have severe symptoms, your doctor may discuss delaying or changing your treatment. See our Treatment changes page for more information.
Other resources we recommend
Cancer Council Mon-Fri 9am-5pm13 11 20
Rare Cancers Australia Monday - Friday1800 257 600