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September 22nd, 2010
08:35 AM ET

Is the inability of cancer patients to eat a concern?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

Question asked by Steve Snodgrass, Bowling Green, Kentucky

I wanted to see what your experts thought about cancer/chemotherapy patients and protein malnutrition. I have read it leads to as many as 45 to 50 percent of cancer deaths. Is the inability of cancer patients to eat of major concern to cancer health care providers? Thank you.

Expert Answer

You ask an important question about a devastating problem.

Cachexia is a condition in which the body consumes excess energy. There is accelerated loss of fat stores and then consumption of proteins such as skeletal muscle. Cachexia is best known as a disease of cancer patients, but it is seen in patients with chronic infection, AIDS, heart failure, rheumatoid diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nearly half of patients with cancer that has spread to organs other the original site of disease (metastatic disease) have cachexia.

Loss of appetite or anorexia is often associated with cachexia, especially cachexia of malignancy. Contrary to what many think, this is not a disease caused by starvation. The loss in weight and body mass is driven by a metabolic disease manifested by increased energy consumption. As a result aggressive feeding and caloric replacement are not adequate treatments. Extremely aggressive efforts are to be discouraged. There are studies to suggest that forced tube feeding or intravenous feeding (known as hyperalimentation) can actually increase risk of infection and death.

Cachectic patients generally do not respond well to anti-cancer therapies. In one National Cancer Institute sponsored study, weight loss of greater than 5% from baseline was a predictor of poor outcome independent of cancer stage, type of cancer and patient performance status. Performance status is a rating of a patient's ability to walk and independently care for ones activities of daily living such as dressing oneself or hygiene.

Studies demonstrate that cachexia is the direct cause of death in a small number of cancer patients (1 to 2 percent). This is akin to the body running out of fuel or extreme malnutrition. More commonly the person has lost a great deal of immune function and becomes susceptible to infection or cachexia can lead to metabolic disorders that can cause heart rhythm disturbances. There are no good estimates as to how often this occurs.

Cancer cachexia appears to be caused by chemicals given off by the tumor or by the patient's immune system that is trying to combat the tumor. These chemicals are called cytokines. Some cytokines have also been found to cause depression which can also of course cause loss of appetite which worsens the condition. When there is effective treatment of the cancer, symptoms of cachexia decrease.

A number of agents have been studied, not as treatment of the cancer, but as a treatment of the condition known as cachexia of malignancy. These include melatonin, thalidomide, cannabinoids, and androgenic steroids. Only the corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, and the progestational agents, such megesterol acetate, have proven of benefit in treatment of the loss of appetite. While a number of studies show corticosteroids and progestational agents cause an increase in appetite and even weight gain, these studies have not shown that they improve quality of live or survival.


soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Terry W. Brookman

    Smoke pot

    September 22, 2010 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RICHARD57

      BS ... the body is starving itself because cancer cells need more food, more protein and they can't compete with your cells because they are not as fast growing. studies done at Harvsrd in the late 80's showed that diets with only minimum amounts of essential amino acids stopped CANCER...BUT THEY DON'T WANT PREVENTION OR CHEAP TREATMENTS...WESTERN MEDICINE IS PART OF THE ECONOMIC DOWNFALL...GREED...MAGIC PILLS THAT COST A LOT....IN FACT AN ARTICLE CAME OUT JUST last year that chemo and radiation were INNEFFECTIVE.....SO what do doctors do when you lose your appetite? STICK A TUBE DOWN YOUR THROAT AND FORCE FEED THE CANCER, THINK PEOPLE....THINK...WAKE THE HECK UP...CAPITALIST GREED...AND oh the suffering these treatments cause...instead of a few months to settle up, say goodbye...or HEAL...they are tortuous and EXPENSIVE...BREAK THE FAMILY BANK...btw...over 60 percent of ALL HEALTHCARE DOLLARS ARE SPENT IN THE LAST THREE WEEKS OF LIFE1 WAKE UP PEOPLE!

      September 22, 2010 at 17:50 | Report abuse |
    • RICHARD57

      GASTON NAESSENS...LOOK HIM UP ON THE WEB.

      September 22, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse |
    • RICHARD57

      Cancer in vital organs is much harder to beat..brains, lung, heart. God, I wish there was a magic pill! But I do not accept that the body os wrong....they used to think fever was bad...now we know it is what kicks up the immune system. they used to surgically remove thymus glands...before they even knew their function...which is to excrete a rejuvenating hormone...Medicine has come a ways and has a long way to go. Listen to the body.

      September 22, 2010 at 18:08 | Report abuse |
    • Spence

      GASTON NAESSENS is a fraud.

      September 22, 2010 at 19:24 | Report abuse |
    • RICHARD57

      total belief in western medicine...a science akin to a god...total faith...and curses on anyone who is not of their shrine and power.

      September 22, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse |
    • RICHARD57

      They can't make money off acupuncture or marijuana and even if you might be dying...they'll stop even that possible pleasure and relief...that's greed of a special kind and government of a very insidious type.

      September 22, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse |
    • thor

      I wake up every day to severe stomach pain. It's ceases after some Pot smoking. But I don't always feel like smoking when I get up. But it works. No doubt about it.

      September 23, 2010 at 03:07 | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      Richard, knock it off with your silly conspiracy theories. You sound nuts.

      September 26, 2010 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
  2. Jesse

    Just legalize marijuana already, give them the munchies and let them eat.

    September 22, 2010 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Catherine

    Acupuncture has proven highly effective in helping with Cachexia. There are both US and Chinese studies verifiying the effectivness of these treatments. Also, there are numerous high profile hospitals in the Seattle area alone that have incorporated acupuncture in cancer treatment protocols to help with the side effects.

    September 22, 2010 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Rita

    My brother just died from Stage IV lung cancer. This is exactly what happened to him. Smoking pot obviously is not the answer. I am happy that he didn't suffer long and died in his sleep.

    September 22, 2010 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • xoxoxo

      My brother also passed away recently from stage IV lung cancer . I think he was one of the 1-2 % that died from malnutrition. He didn't eat at all . If he tried to eat it would make him sick almost immediately. The way it was expliand to us was that the cancer took any energy brought in and then put out toxins so the patient would be sick. TPN made him sick. Cancer is cruel.

      September 22, 2010 at 11:10 | Report abuse |
    • wolfmara

      I am so sorry for your loss. Nine years ago we lost my dad to stage 4 lung cancer (he wasn't a smoker).
      Another problem we noticed was the chemo drugs messed with his taste buds and his sense of taste every day things tasted "off" in different ways. I was a frustrating challenge to find things that tasted palatable to encourage to eat. We snuck high calories in anything we could. When he died; if he weighed 90lbs that would've been alot.

      September 22, 2010 at 19:32 | Report abuse |
  5. Brian Brewer

    I thought it very interesting that the article points to a connection between cachexia and the immune system's response to cancer. The nonprofit organization I work for, Cancer Research Institute (http://www.cancerresearch.org), has been focused for nearly 60 years on understanding the immune system and how it can be harnessed to treat, control, and prevent cancer. That knowledge is helping to lead not only to a new class of cancer treatments that avoid causing the obvious side-effects of many of the current cancer therapies (e.g., hair loss, nausea, pain, fatigue), but also is leading to potential ways to prevent or treat cachexia and thus improve the chances of survival in patients who develop this cancer-related condition.

    September 22, 2010 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. rubi

    my husband just went thru stage III genetic colon cancer, he was already a slim guy - 160 before chemo started, he was often around the 140 mark (at over 6 ft) - he can lose a couple lbs a day by not eating - everything he ate tasted like metal cuz of his chemo meds and he also could not eat the one thing he would have loved - ice cream, because of his chemo meds - MARIJUANA was the only thing that kept my husband from starving to death, what little appetite he had, was because of it.... thankfully, by the skin of his teeth, he has pulled thru and MJ is the main reason!

    September 22, 2010 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. BJJSchecter

    I had testicular cancer and after all my chemo I went from a solid 190 to 136. They made me take pulls to help fight chemo side effects and help me eat, but, they made me sick as well. Finally a buddy of mine hooked me up with some weed, which pretty much made me feel like a million bucks without the nasty side effects. I still have a prescription today to help figh anxiety from my experience. So, yeah, I am all for legalizing. I am in Cali, so can't wait till November. Vote yes on Prop 19!

    September 22, 2010 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miguel

      hell yeah. I with you all the way. Why waste money on all these pills that don't do anything to help you eat, when there is a easier product that helps with this problem.

      September 22, 2010 at 13:50 | Report abuse |
    • mindy

      i had cancer and eating pot help me eat i was so thin and weak doc pills dont help they have pot that doesnt make you high. take it at night and in the morning you eat.

      July 9, 2012 at 20:23 | Report abuse |
  8. Jon

    I think another big issue for many cancer patients is oral mucositis, which is a terrible inflamation in the mouth that causes people to stop taking food. There are people working on a treatment for this. see: http://www.avaxiabiologics.com .

    September 22, 2010 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. BikeMike

    Another reason to legalize marijuana. Problem solved. When is the public going to get over the negativity of this harmless substance which is proving to have far more positives than the many lives it has ruined. America, get over it and lets address the countries real problems.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Another CA Survivor

    Jon has it right, I think. Oral mucositis was THE worst part of my cancer treatment. Even opening my mouth hurt, let alone letting anything touch the inside of my mouth. Even water was painful! I tried everything my doctors recommended, with little or no reduction in pain. Add that to the gigantic protein metabolism problem going on (as a result of radiation), and you are going to lose wt. (I went from a size 10 to a 0 in 3 months. NOT a good look, nor did it feel good in any way.) I think ENT docs and radiation oncologists (and nutritionists, nurses, Heme-Onc docs, pts, family members of cancer pts, etc) would be THRILLED with more successful ways of treating oral mucositis. BTW, I'm almost 4 yrs Ca free! Yay! Get your sons and daughters immunized against HPV now. The virus can be spread in saliva (i.e. kissing). Don't let them get cancer because you fear immunizing them will send the msg that it's OK to have sexual intercourse. Simply talk to them! You may save their lives.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Drazul

      I hope it stays clear for the rest of your days

      September 22, 2010 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
    • Soul

      Try stawberry jello. I had something similar to this condition when I got food poisoning(bad milk- spoiled). I had a 103 fevor for a week. I had braces at the time and rolled over on my stomach and got blisters on my tongue and mouth. I couldn't eat anything for about 5 days. Strawberry jello I somehow could keep down after that and after two weeks I finally recovered. I lost about 60 lbs (235-> 175). I was diagnosed with high blood sugar later and after about 10 years developed diabetes and now take insulin.

      Also I had a friend who died from this condition as part of treatment for prostate cancer. He was diabetic too.

      The comments about MJ are interesting, but I don't think that is a solution to the problem. Military or governement works with cancer and federal law would trump state in those cases.

      The problem isn't just not being able to eat though, the problem is your body is burning through the calories and losing nutrients.

      September 22, 2010 at 13:04 | Report abuse |
  11. Robin

    My dad died of pancreatic cancer three years ago. We were told that he would get thinner and thinner because of the cancer. It bothered us that he was no longer eating, and so we researched online to see what studies there were. The Edinburgh Medical University had medical journal post on Fish oil tablets and how they help restore appetite to cancer patients. We weren't looking for a cure, just comfort care. So we started dad on the fish oil tablets. His appetite came back, and we all really enjoyed our meal times with him and great visits. So that said, there is an alternative to marijuana ... and the medical community has it.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Deedz

      My Mom was given a medication for toe nail fungus. These meds should not be on the market, but they are, and if taken, are not to be taken for more than 3 months but her doctor gave it to her for 8 months!!!! and no one told her that she would be violently ill if she did not stop. Now her situation is so bad that we rushed her to the hospital only to be told that she has severe damage to her liver. We all know it is from the meds they gave her but no one will admit that they made a mistake.
      It has been 6 months since she's stopped taking the meds for the foot fungus and she is much better but will never be the same again. The only reason she is getting better now is because a naturopath is taking care of her and is helping her clean her liver and eat better, as well as try to live without meds for everything and anything.
      The medical community has so many things hidden from us. If they were to give us the cures (which they already have for many diseases, including cancer), then how would their friendly pharmaceutical companies (who buy the doctors homes, cars, trips) make a zillion dollars a year?

      September 22, 2010 at 16:44 | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    Marinol (a prescription drug which is a THC analogue) has been used to treat anorexia in cancer patients and AIDS patients. It is legal and does not damage the lungs. As for everyone out there saying that smoking marijuana is harmless, perhaps it would behoove you to educate yourselves. I am a pulmonologist (lung doctor), and can tell you that marijuana, when smoked, has ~4x the tar of a cigarette puff-for-puff. It seems to have a greater suppression of immune markers compared to tobacco or crack-cocaine when studied in volunteers. Due to the manner in which marijuana is smoked, 1 joint a day is roughly equivalent to 1 pack of cigarettes a day as far as your risk of developing COPD is concerned. There is not enough evidence out there to say definitively that it is better, worse or the same as tobacco in regards to risk of developing lung cancer. I have seen a few patients, young males in their early 30's with significant bullous lung disease (big holes in their lungs the size of plums) attributed to marijuana smoking. This sort of lung disease is perhaps 20 years ahead of the destruction you see in tobacco smoking. It's not so much what you smoke, it's the fact that you're smoking anything that is bad for the lungs. This is not just my opinion. This has been well documented in the scientific literature.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miguel

      Pot doesn't have to be smoked. There are cultivators in Canada that have made marijuana cookies and muffins that give the same effect as smoking it.

      September 22, 2010 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
    • rubi

      well Bob, no offense...BUT... if you were really any kind of doctor you would know that marinol is NOT effective - the reasons are as follows:

      #1: marinol, even in the smallest pill size, comes in 2.5 mg of straight THC, the main pyschoactive drug in cannabis - way more than a human consumes a day even someone that smokes all day long - leading to hightened anxiety in cancer patients

      #2: for patients that can barely drink water or swallow anything, taking a pill is extremely difficult and actually requires the patient to NOT vomit it up before it takes its effect - which is pretty counterproductive for people that are vomiting during their chemo cycles

      #3: the pill, which must make it's way down your throat, into your stomach, where it is digested and then must be metabolized by the liver and then passed through the bloodstream back into the patient's brain, can take HOURS to take effect, which leads most patients to double the dosage, thinking the first dose did not take effect, leading to even more anxiety and overall feeling of yuckiness

      #4: cannabis, not man-made THC, has many cannaboids that are all part of the process of what cannabis does, it is NOT the THC that solely works on a persons appetite and nausea symptoms - our body and in particular our brains have cannaboid receptors that are just waiting for cannabis so that they can release their medical goodness

      #5: cannabis can also help patients, especially DYING ones, feel at ease because of its anti-depressant qualities

      #6: if cannabis has no medicinal properties as THEY claim, which is how they keep it from being legal, then how come they developed a drug off the main ingredient? In fact, right now, they are working on another pill which has no THC and has the other cannaboids in it, thus, proving my point.

      #7: You would be the FIRST person, doctor or otherwise, to have ‘physical proof’ of serious damage to the lungs from MJ, and yet, where are your findings? Because I’ve seen nothing but medical doctors claiming the opposite

      #8: do not think for a moment I do not know what I am talking about. I am the wife/caregiver to someone with genetic cancer, we are both medicinal marijuana patients and growers in a medical MJ state, I guarantee there is nothing that I couldn’t argue against you and your peddling of marinol vs. marijuana

      #9: Marijuana that is used with a vaporizer has virtually none of the problems you listed, because when cannabinoids are heated to the right temperature they literally boil and vaporize.

      September 22, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
    • Deedz

      Hey Bob, was the description of "pulmonologist" for you or for us....

      September 22, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
    • Deedz

      Rubi, You sure told Bob

      September 22, 2010 at 16:49 | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      I agree with Dr. Bob (wasn't he that dog on the Muppet Show), that smoking anything is probably not good for you. I did post a comment earlier regarding my husband with CLL. He did MMJ and was able to actually gain weight during chemo (60 pounds). If I get cancer, I am definitely going the banana bread/vaporizing route. Getting dried cannabis compared to another processed pill just seems healthier. FYI, you can claim your MMJ and Green Card expenses on your income tax! Yay!

      September 22, 2010 at 18:08 | Report abuse |
    • pod

      I couldn't have gotten straight A's in college smoking crack daily though!

      September 22, 2010 at 21:33 | Report abuse |
    • Jose

      Yea Bob, if your a doctor i would be concerned about who you care for.. Cannabis is the safest Herb known to man.. Helps millions with ailments and provides many with a safer alternative to other legal substances.. Google "Run from the cure" or "Rick Simpson" and get educated my friend.. I think its time everyone learned the truth about Cannabis.. CBD & CBN are Cancer fighting agents..

      September 23, 2010 at 03:04 | Report abuse |
  13. heath edwards

    There is a oncologist in Birmingham Alabama who does a lot of research on taste and smell in cancer patients. Dr. Luis F Pineda. He has a non profit org called Cooking With Cancer. Maybe this can help some people. http://www.cookingwithcancer.org

    September 22, 2010 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gina Seibert

      Yes, we have recipes specifically designed for cancer patients. Dr. Pineda is a practicing oncologist that returned to school several years ago to obtain a degree in the Culinary Arts to combine the art of cooking with his knowledge of medicine. As an executive chef, he has created recipes designed to stimulate the affected taste buds, as well as recipes for certain side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. You can obtain a free cookbook with these recipes by going to http://www.cookingwithcancer.org. We have it on ebook for your convenience or you can request a book. We also have a DVD for free that filmed with Culinard, Virginia College that show ten recipes from start to finish. You can a find them posted on youtube. Nutritional needs of cancer patients today still go unmet, providing this free service is our way to give back to the families and patients living with cancer.

      September 22, 2010 at 12:31 | Report abuse |
  14. Chuck

    Cannabis is the answer.You do not have to smoke it to reap its benefits.Vaporizing and or eating foods made w/cannabis is the ticket to eating.My Mom is/was wasting away with lung cancer and I got the Doc to give her Marinol,now she eats like a teenager.I went through cyclic vomting due to Oxycontin for chronic pain and saved myself w/cannabis.Legalize this medicine for the 21st century already.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Spouse of Cancer Patient

    My husband was diagnosed with lung cancer, stage 3, inoperable. He is undergoing chemo and radiation at the same time which literally wipes out your appetitie. We are residents of Georgia therefore no medical marijuana is available so we have past sources for obtaining it. I truely believe that his appetite has remained the same or even better due to the fact that he does have the munchies. I REALLY think that it should be made legal for cancer patients because I know for a FACT that this is helping him more than it's hurting him or anyone else!!!!!

    September 22, 2010 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Veggiehead

      It should be legalized, for that and so many other reasons. I'm glad to hear that it is helping your spouse endure that harsh chemo and radiation. May I ask you, is your husband smoking it, and how often? Thanks.

      September 22, 2010 at 14:05 | Report abuse |
  16. Paige Arnold

    My husband is battling lung cancer-last year it was throat cancer-and ultimately he lost about 25 lbs total. He is taking magastrol and his appetite is great and weight is slowly returning. He walks and does a minimal amt of running in spurts and this also seems to help his appetite. Fortunately, his chemo does not make him nauseated but he does battle fatigue. I give him a supplement called Juice Plus which can help the immune system and we hope for the best. BTW-he hasn't smoked in 40 yrs so I doubt he would try marijuana. May all of you who have commented here be blessed and here's to your health and successes in overconing cancer.

    September 22, 2010 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Ashley

    ashley

    September 22, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Miguel

    ask cancer patients that smoke pot if it helps with hunger, then maybe doctors and the government can put 2 and 2 together.

    September 22, 2010 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Veggiehead

    "While a number of studies show corticosteroids and progestational agents cause an increase in appetite and even weight gain, these studies have not shown that they improve quality of live or survival." The use of steroids in humans and animals with end-stge cancer is inhumane. I have lost many family members to cancer, and a few dogs, and I have seen the horrible effects of steroid use in both human and pet. To say that it doesn't improve the quality of life is a huge understatement. "Weight gain" means ballooning bloat. Add hair loss to that, and mood swings, and constant, insatiable thirst. Insomnia, hair loss, digestive issues, dry mouth, too. It is a treatment meant, I believe, to placate those around the patient, by minimizing the wasting, and to tweak the case statistics (the patient gained weight, which is an improvement). It does not benefit the patient.

    September 22, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Cancer Survivor

    I am a survivor of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, 4 years in remission. Every 4-6 weeks I take megesterol acetate to stimulate my appetite. It works.

    September 22, 2010 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Joe

    Potheads, isn't pot already legal for medical purposes? I know it is where I live. Don't try to use this as an excuse to fry your brain recreationally. Drugs should only be used medically.

    September 22, 2010 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pod

      Think "outside your area". Folks on this list have noted Nature's Herb is not legal in their state in any form.

      September 22, 2010 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
  22. Donald Farrish

    Hi Dr. Brawley,
    I am a scientist working for a bioresearch company. Your article was very informative. My company has developed a bioactive protein that has been clinically proven to create a "Systemic Immune System Response". Very recently a clinical trilal done over a period of 5 years was released. The successful completion of a multi-center randomized,double-blind clinical trial on cancer-related weight loss (cachexia) in lung cancer patients which was performed in collaboration with various Canadian clinical centers. The research concluded that patients treated showed significant increases in body weight. The massive loss of body weight and muscle mass in advanced cancer patients is typically associated with psychological stress, financial burden and a decreased quality of life. Until now there have been no dietary interventions known to satisfactorily prevent this process. The results showed that patients in the placebo group continued to lose weight whereas patients treated with the bioactive protein showed a significant increase in body weight. Incidentally, these patients also showed an increase in strength and quality of life parameters. This study showed for the first time that cancer-related weight loss (cachexia) can be prevented by a single source of protein.
    http://www.GSHLabs.com

    September 22, 2010 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Kim Goodman

    EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) present in fish oil modulates the effect of cachexia in cancer patients. Abbott Laboratories developed a product called Prosure that included 6 grams of fish oil in each serving. Abbott trialed this product for years and introduced it in the UK in 2001 and the U.S. in 2002. It is still available overseas. My father was diagnosed with stage IVA cancer of the pancreas in June of 2001 and was in imminent danger of expiring due to cachexia. He began using Prosure before treatment and it behaved exactly as the trial studies indicated it would. His appetite, sense of taste and energy levels returned to normal or near normal. He did very well for 24 months and regained 20lbs of lean body mass within a year. No drugs, no hormones, just a naturally occuring easily available substance and no high cost. Oncologists in the US just couldn't get on board with it. Check Prosure.com for study info or Google it. Good luck!

    September 22, 2010 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. KGKDH

    I totally agree that they should legalize marijuana/medical marijuana. My mother died in March of uterine cancer. For several months preceding her death, she was so nauseous that she was unable to swallow pills or keep food down. It was a nightmare for her. If medical marijuana was allowed in our state, at least she could have eaten more....perhaps keeping up her strength. It makes me sick that people who haven't had cancer get to make these decisions about whether or not to allow medical marijuana. Cancer is a horrendous disease and everything and anything should be made available to patients. Instead, people who have never had the disease are so afraid to support legalization lest they been deemed politically incorrect. Meanwhile, people suffer needlessly in states where it is not allowed. It is barbaric.

    September 22, 2010 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Angie

    I'm a Hospice nurse who once had a patient with intractable nausea. The nausea eventually resolved, which I assumed was due to the interventions we initiated. I found out after he died that his nausea was being treated, successfully, with marijuana.

    September 22, 2010 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Heather Rinkel

    My husband has Stage IV gastric (stomach) cancer). His stomach and gall bladder were removed. Weight has gone from 220 to 158 in about 10 months. Very little info that I can find on eating without a stomach – perhaps he has cachexia? Will find out next week when we visit our oncologist. Any info out there on eating without a stomach would be appreciated. He eats mostly high-fat milk, icecream and some solids – about 1600 calories a day.

    September 22, 2010 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Sarah

    My husband went through leukemia and gained 60 pounds thanks to medical marijuana. You don't have to smoke it. We used a vaporizer and also bought cookies and banana bread at our local dispensary. I am so thankful we live in Washington state where this was made possible. All of the other anti-nausea drugs were terrible except for Attivan which is actually an anti-anxiety drug.

    September 22, 2010 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sarah

    If you want to donate a tax-deductible donation for the cause and to help those in need – http://www.thc-foundation.org/

    September 22, 2010 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Don

    Please vote for the funding of chemo101.com, a site that will provide much needed guidance and info to cancer sufferers.

    September 22, 2010 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don

      Go to http://www.chemo101.com and click on the button there to vote. It'll just take a couple of minutes.

      September 22, 2010 at 19:39 | Report abuse |
  30. Lauren

    I was diagnosed with Stage 3C colon cancer in February at the age of 25. It is a special, extremely agressive type of cancer called Signet Ring Cell. I am currently wearing my final pump full of chemo-therapy that I have to wear for 46 hours every two weeks. Thank God this will soon be over, but I just want to say I have lost about 20-25 pounds since the surgery to remove my entire large intesting. My weight will fluctuate from 143 to 150 and I am 6'2" – thin before, very skinny now. Also, because of the surgery, I don't store food in my body as long which makes it hard to gain weight and nutrients.

    The metallic taste of food as awful. Aside from the fatigue, I think that was the worst part. I had to schedule friends and relatives to come by and force feed me every few hours. In addition, one of the drugs causes a sensitivity to cold – making it feel like needles are sticking you repeatedly and not something you want in your throat. This combined with the unimaginable fatigue led me to not want to eat. I couldn't even get off the couch unless I had to go to the bathroom, sheerly based on not wanting to crap my pants.

    For those of you who are trying alternate methods for increasing your appetite – I would say be careful. You don't know what all those extra things are doing to your body. All of my doctors suggested I drink Ensure – my GI doctor actually suggested I drink a six pack day. I feel like the best solution is just to push through it and soon enough it will be over and you can get back to your normal life and hopefully your normal weight.

    September 22, 2010 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. sandy

    This article is fraught with writing errors. Doesn't anyone proofread CNN articles?

    September 22, 2010 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Patricia

    I had stage 3 breast cancer but the medicine they gave me to calm my stomach made my face and neck swell up so I coulnd eat but when I didnt take them I felt fine.I had 5 months chemo and 6 weeks of radition but could eat nornal food just a couple things bothered me.sometimes I would do a BBQ rest of the time cook in my kitchen.I deceided its not going to beat me.I also had 3 blood clots and a infection lasting 45 day in my mediport.just before my surgery to remove my breast I slipped and fell and tore my shoulder muscle to this date Ive had 7 surgeries in 14 months.I always tell people its mind over matter.

    September 22, 2010 at 23:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. walter

    embarrasing when CNN posts articles without doing spellcheck. I guess anyone can work there!

    September 23, 2010 at 04:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Dr. Seuss

    Death is a well orchestrated dance.

    September 23, 2010 at 07:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Hyperalimentation Therapy

    Hyperalimentation Therapy ....ever hear of it? Use a picc line and can be done at home with a home infusion nurse/company and of course a doctor and it can run thru the night.....Peg feeding tube (ensure)depending on the cancer and the condition of the G.I. tract. Ask Dr Sanjay Gupta MD about these very very very very very very very very common therapies.....Are you sure this is a health/medicine blog?What a joke!!!!!!Your patients would not being doing so well! The comments sometimes are more educational!

    September 23, 2010 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ElizabethCohenKills

      It is not in wikepedia so Elizabeth does not know about this therapy.....We hope her show accepts call-ins!!!!! Hey Dr lizzy what about Megace ES to stimulate the appetite or actually a person mentioned Marijuana which comes in a capsule form known as Marinol it is still available via the drug comapny. I guess you missed the year where med students had to take Pathophysiology.....
      Come on IZZY you can do better .................empower us? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      September 23, 2010 at 18:29 | Report abuse |
    • GotBlockedByHealthBlog

      so liz Cohen in journalism it is common to get both sides of the story.In your book you tell a heart-breaking sad case about your daughter.What happened to the parties involved? Was there discipline against their licenses? If this happened to me I would go after the parties involved instead of writing a book.Can we get the doctors,nurses and hospital administration to tell their side of the story.This would be fair and it also would prevent it (if it ACTUALLY HAPPENED) from happening again.I mean this is what you want for this incident to never happen again right?What does DR. Gupta say about this because I believe a M.D. over a reporter.

      September 23, 2010 at 19:32 | Report abuse |
    • LizCohenPoorStudent

      Is it true that you did so poorly in school and on the mcat you were denied entrance into medical school? I mean why not become a doctor to really help patients.I mean this is what empowering patients means right or is it just about ratings and selling books?

      September 23, 2010 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
    • FuturePost2015

      Some doctors are using remeron (mirtazipine) even though it is not indicated or FDA approved....So the writers of these articles are not health care professionals? I think they do get some input from the medical community though.CNN should expand their budget because they are the last unbiased national news channel left....C-span is the best though....okay my shift is over...good night or good morning!

      September 24, 2010 at 06:52 | Report abuse |
  36. American

    didn't they just do an article about weight gain with breast cancer treatment?

    September 25, 2010 at 01:23 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.