My husband is undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer and is losing a lot of weight. He barely has an appetite and finds it hard to eat when he does want something. Can you please give us some suggestions for nutrition?
Katrina Claghorn, Registered Dietician at Penn Medicine responds:
Unfortunately loss of appetite often occurs with esophageal cancer. The first step is to calculate your husband's nutritional needs. The American Cancer Society has a calorie calculator located here: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/calculators/app/calorie-counter-calculator You should keep a calorie count to monitor his intake - ideally he should do this with you so that he, too, becomes aware of how much he is eating.
Get the most bang for the buck with the foods he eat choose calorie dense foods e.g. yogurt, pudding, peanut butter and crackers. Also, he should eat small amounts frequently.
He may need to drink high calorie drinks to meet his nutritional goals. You can make him smoothies and shakes, or you can purchase commercial products such as Carnation Instant Breakfast and Ensure.
If his loss of appetite becomes so severe that it prevents him from eating he might want to discuss an appetite stimulant with his doctor.
This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on GI Cancers webchat.