Mesothelioma and Diet

Key takeaways: Mesothelioma and its treatment options are known to cause changes in appetite and gastrointestinal functioning, resulting in disordered eating. Some patients are advised to eat
calorie-dense and nutrient-rich foods, even in small amounts, to ensure that they are receiving nutritional value from foods. A study, called the Help-Meso study, interviewed patients and their
caregivers about eating and physical activity levels. They found evidence to increase the scope of treatment to include addressing dietary changes and encouraging physical activity. Mesothelioma and diet are talked about together, since mesothelioma victims tend to lose their appetite.

Does mesothelioma affect appetite?

One of the characteristics of undiagnosed mesothelioma is a significant decrease in appetite. During treatment for mesothelioma—so, beyond the effects of the cancer itself—there are notable gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. So, mesothelioma and its treatment options compound GI symptoms. This happens for a variety of reasons: metabolic and immune states are compromised, digestion is sped up or slowed down due to different drugs, or general fatigue might affect eating habits. Importantly, this isn’t an
exhaustive list of how mesothelioma and its treatment affect eating and digestive habits. Mesothelioma is known to be associated with weight loss and related disordered eating, due in large part to the side effects of treatments—most notably chemotherapy. High levels of circulating inflammatory agents, like cytokines and certain immune cells, also contribute to a change in eating patterns. Many mesothelioma patients have sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass; others have cachexia, which is a cancer-mediated decrease in fat and muscle; still others develop anorexia.
Succinctly: the progression of mesothelioma and its treatment significantly affect normal digestive functioning.

Should mesothelioma patients change their diets?

Each patient should receive nutritional advice based on their specific needs and contexts. Ideally, mesothelioma patients should be assigned a nutritionist or dietician as soon as they start treatment. These professionals can monitor, track, and make necessary adjustments based on the patient’s progress and appetite. Patients shouldn’t navigate significant diet changes on their own.
For some patients—especially ones that have a markedly decreased appetite—a dietician might recommend introducing more calorie-dense or nutrient-rich foods. Protein, healthy fats, and
calories are prioritized—some patients might prioritize foods like tofu, lean meats (chicken or turkey), or nuts in order to meet recommended daily values. Sometimes, nutrition specialists will
recommend foods that have high levels of minerals and vitamins, like strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, spinach, in hopes of naturally restoring nutrient levels. For almost all patients, nutrition
specialists will recommend steering clear of processed foods, which usually increase inflammation in the body. Nutrition goals for mesothelioma patients are a.) to supplement minimal food intake during treatment; b.) to reduce foods that incite inflammation; and c.) to mitigate the tendency for patients to develop disordered eating.

Relevant studies on Mesothelioma and Diet

The Help-Meso study, which was launched in 2022, sought to examine the relationship between nutrition/physical activity and mesothelioma patient outcomes. After conducting semi-structured
interviews with patients and their caregivers, the researchers established that appetite is a multidimensional experience for patients. They also found that informal caregivers—so, spouses,
relatives, friends—managed diet and food intake for patients, rather than dieticians or nutritionists. Their research calls for interventions that a.) manage patient symptoms post-treatment; b.) put dietary needs/plans in the hands of professionals, rather than caregivers; and c.) focus on food intake as a legitimate facet of treatment.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please call The Halpern Law Firm at 1 (800)-505-6000. We are here to help you navigate the legal process of filing a claim to receive compensation for your cancer diagnosis. We help mesothelioma victims and their families in Pennsylvania.


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