Managing Loss of Appetite (Anorexia)

From Cancer Therapy

Some patients experience a decrease in appetite while receiving cancer therapy and for some time following treatment. Remember that this loss of appetite is a temporary side effect of your treatment. Also, the loss of appetite you may experience depends on many factors and varies from person to person.

Please ask your nurse to review this information with you and to answer any questions you may have. Keep your nurse and doctor informed of your concerns about your appetite and weight. A registered dietitian is available to discuss your diet and can suggest ways to maintain your normal weight.

Helpful Hints to Manage Loss of Appetite

  • Eat small frequent meals and healthy snacks that are high in protein and calories.
  • Eat during periods of greatest appetite, rather than at set mealtimes. Be flexible. Eat whenever you feel hungry.
  • Make mealtime as pleasant as possible by trying the following suggestions:
      • Rest before eating.
      • Play soft background music or a relaxation tape.
      • Use an attractive table setting.
      • Indulge in your favorite foods.
      • Make plans to eat with family and friends.
  • Take pain medication as instructed.
  • Take nausea medication a half-hour before meals, or as instructed.
  • Avoid foods that cause bloating and gas, such as cabbage, broccoli, and beans; or indigestion, such as spicy foods.
  • If you have a sore mouth, do mouth care routinely and especially before and after meals.
    Your mouth care: ________________________________________________________
  • If you have dry mouth, use:  ________________________________________________
  • Try sugar-free hard candy, gum, or mints if you have a metallic or bitter taste in your mouth.
  • Marinate meats with sweet marinades or sauces like teriyaki or soy. Try different seasonings.
  • Don’t drink large quantities of fluids with meals, since this will make you feel fuller sooner.
  • Avoid “empty calorie” liquids like soda pop.
      • Try fruit juices and milk products.
      • If you have trouble digesting milk and milk products, speak to your nurse or the registered dietitian.
  • Exercise as tolerated. A moderate exercise routine helps stimulate appetite.
  • Nutritional supplements can be recommended by the registered dietitian or nurse.
  • Your doctor may order an appetite-stimulating medication.
  • Sometimes loss of appetite during cancer therapy is a symptom of depression. If you think you may have problems with your mood and emotions, speak to your doctor about your concerns.

In an Emergency Call:




UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |