While mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive type of cancer, its symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases. The development of mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, which is a natural mineral widely used in industries like construction, shipbuilding and manufacturing for 100 years. Despite its heat resistance, tensile strength and insulating properties, the mineral was proven toxic during the 20th century, but millions of people had already been in contact with it. When it interacts with other materials, asbestos releases fibers into the air that are swallowed or inhaled.
The human body is unable to properly expel the asbestos fibers and they become trapped, traveling through the body to the mesothelial cells. These cells gather around the organs and form the membrane that moisten the organs, the mesothelium. The fibers irritate the cells, causing the formation of tumors in the lining of lungs (pleural mesothelioma), abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), heart (pericardial mesothelioma) or tunica vaginalis testis (testicular mesothelioma). Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common form of the disease and loss of appetite is one of its symptoms.
Loss of Appetite in Patients with Mesothelioma
The first symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can be experienced decades after exposure to asbestos, and even then they may be mistaken for other conditions. Loss of appetite in mesothelioma patients is not completely understood, but it is association may be connected to growth of tumors in the abdomen as well as buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Due to these factors, the organs in the abdomen are pressured and have less space to properly function. As the stomach shrinks, patients may experience loss of appetite. On the other hand, patients often face emotional problems like stress, anxiety or depression due to mesothelioma, which can also result in loss of appetite.
Management of Loss of Appetite by Mesothelioma Patients
Despite the fact that investigators haven’t yet found a cure for mesothelioma, there are treatments designed to ease the symptoms of the disease as well as improve patients’ quality of life and life expectancy. These include surgery to resect the tumors, and chemotherapy or radiation, which can be administered alone, before, after or during the surgery. When mesothelioma is already in an advanced stage, physicians may opt to recommend palliative care. In the case of loss of appetite, patients may discuss with their physicians or dietitians strategies to fight the symptom.
One of the tips to help address it is to eat smaller amounts of food but more times a day. Eating high calorie foods that are higher in protein is also recommended. Addressing the underlying emotional causes of loss of appetite can also help patients better cope with the symptoms and become more active. In addition, dietitians may prescribe nutritional supplements that help normalize the levels of vitamins and nutrients in the body. There are also medications, such as steroids, that can help increase appetite in the short-term.
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