Weight loss can be beneficial and improve overall health, but it can also be a symptom of a disease, causing nutritional and emotional issues for patients. Medical conditions that can cause weight loss include mesothelioma, which is an aggressive but rare type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a natural mineral used for about 100 years in numerous industries like construction, shipbuilding and manufacturing. During the 20th century, asbestos was proven to be toxic. When in contact with other materials, asbestos fibers may be released into the air.

These asbestos fibers can be inhaled or swallowed, and the body cannot properly expel them. Over time, they become trapped in the mesothelial cells, which form a thin membrane around certain organs called the mesothelium. The mesothelial cells become irritated, causing the formation of tumors. Mesothelioma can occur in the lungs, abdomen, heart or testicles, known as pleural, peritoneal, pericardial or testicular mesothelioma, respectively. About 70% of patients suffer from pleural mesothelioma, while peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for 20% of the cases and both pericardial mesothelioma and testicular mesothelioma are particular rare.

How Weight Loss Affects Patients with Mesothelioma

Weight loss as a symptom of pleural mesothelioma or peritoneal mesothelioma may be caused by numerous issues. In the case of pleural mesothelioma, weight loss may result from dysphagia or difficulty swallowing food and liquids. Patients experience these problems as the disease progressively affects the lungs. Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma can experience weight loss since the abdominal cavity is affected, causing pain and unwillingness to eat. Patients may not want to eat or feel pain while eating.

In addition, pressure in the stomach due to the tumors can aggravate digestion, causing weight loss in patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. When weight loss is minimal, it may go unnoticed and even in the case of a more significant weight loss, can be mistaken for anorexia nervosa. However, it is important to understand and treat weight loss related to mesothelioma since it can weaken the patient and lead to malnutrition, dehydration, or anorexia.

Management of Weight Loss by Mesothelioma Patients

There is no cure for mesothelioma, but surgery, chemotherapy and / or radiation therapy can help reduce the symptom and increase patients’ life span. There are also strategies and recommendations to address weight loss. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that patients increase the amounts of food consumed, discuss the delivery of food directly into the stomach with their physician, and eat light meals and avoid protein-rich foods shortly before each cancer treatment, which help prevent feelings of dislike for these foods due to nausea or vomiting from treatment. In addition, medication may be recommended.

Megestrol acetate (Megace), which is a progesterone hormone designed to increase appetite, weight gain, and well-being, may be prescribed, while steroid medications are also used to improve appetite and well-being, as well as decrease nausea, weakness and pain. Metoclopramide (Reglan) prevents feeling full before eating enough food, pancreatic enzyme (lipase) replacement improves the body’s capacity to absorb fat, and dronabinol (Marinol) is a cannabinoid that stimulates appetite. “Nutrition counseling may help people with cancer get essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals into their diet and maintain a healthy body weight,” states the NIH. “You may also find it helpful to keep a record of what, when, and how much you ate, including how you felt during and afterwards.”

Note: Mesothelioma Research News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.