What Type of Cancer Causes Loss of Weight?

There are different signs and symptoms that indicate injury and illnesses. They indicate that something is not correct in your body. If you are experiencing a sudden weight loss or weight gain, then it could be a sign that there is some underlying medical problem. Usually, people consider weight loss without actively trying to lose weight as a pleasant surprise. However, sudden and unexplained weight loss should be considered as the first warning sign of what could turn out to be a major health issue. This is especially true if you are experiencing a loss of more than five percent of your body weight within a span of a couple of months. One of the most common conditions that weight loss is associated with is cancer. Let us take a look at what type of cancer causes loss of weight.

What Type of Cancer Causes Loss of Weight?

What Type of Cancer Causes Loss of Weight?

Experiencing weight loss is a common symptom in people who are eventually diagnosed with cancer. This is usually the very first sign of the disease, but on its own, weight loss is not enough to diagnose cancer. Nevertheless, it will still indicate to your doctors that further tests need to be performed in order to determine the underlying medical cause.

Weight loss is not characteristic of any one type of cancer. Weight loss can occur if a person has:

However, many other types of cancers can also induce loss of weight.

Apart from this, many gastrointestinal problems can also contribute to weight loss. These include:

  • Infections of the esophagus
  • Infections of the mouth
  • Diarrhea

Sometimes there could also be an emotional angle involved in losing weight, including anxiety or depression. Such conditions prevent a person from eating properly and prevent them from getting the required nutrition, thus causing weight loss.

What Should You Do If You Have Unexplained Weight Loss?

If you are experiencing weight loss without being on a diet or without trying to actively lose weight, then it would be a good idea to contact your doctor, especially if you notice that you have lost at least five percent of your normal weight within the last six months. To begin with, your doctor will try to determine whether any of your symptoms indicate a particular disease or disorder.

Some of the questions your doctor is likely to ask you include:

  • Have you experienced any vomiting?
  • Are you suffering from diarrhea?
  • Do you have any dental problems, any tooth pain or pain in the mouth, or any bleeding, that could be preventing you from eating?
  • What are your stress levels like?
  • Are you a smoker?
  • Have you been eating the same as you usually do of less than usual?
  • Have you undergone any major life change or any traumatic event in your life?
  • Do you consume alcohol? If yes, how much and how frequently?
  • What other symptoms are you experiencing?

If you already have an underlying condition or illness, then it is absolutely important to make your doctor aware of your condition. You should also inform your doctor if you have been taking any medications (both prescribed and otherwise).

After your initial consultation with the doctor, you are likely to be prescribed certain routine blood tests, such as the chem 7 panel and a complete blood count (CBC). Some other tests might also be prescribed, such as the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), is also prescribed for detecting any underlying inflammation that could indicate the presence of an infection, an autoimmune disorder, or even cancer. The results of these diagnostic tests will provide your healthcare team with the means to narrow down their search for what the underlying medical condition is causing you to lose weight.

Managing Cancer-related Weight Loss

If it has been ascertained that your weight loss is being caused by cancer, then it becomes important to manage your cancer-related weight loss to ensure your well-being and comfort. Some general tips for doing this include:

Increase the amount of food you consume. You should ask your doctor or dietitian about the amount of food or calories that you should be consuming.
If you are having trouble eating three big meals, then try to eat lighter meals six times a day.

Avoid protein-rich foods, especially before cancer treatment as this will prevent you from developing a dislike of these foods if vomiting or nausea takes place.

Maintain a record of what, when, and how much you are eating. Also, include how you feel after having particular foods. Share this information with your doctor as this will help them make decisions about what items to change in your diet.

Consider consulting a nutritionist or a registered dietitian as they will be able to design a diet plan for you keeping your individual health condition in mind. Consulting a dietitian will also help you maintain a healthy weight and also ensure that you are getting all the important nutrients in your meal.


It is important to keep in mind that unexplained weight loss is not a full and final indication of cancer. Unexplained weight loss only indicates that something is wrong and further investigations need to be undertaken to ensure that cancer is not the cause behind your weight loss. If you are diagnosed with cancer, then remember that the earlier cancer is identified, the better are your chances of surviving and the higher the chances of the treatment working. Early diagnosis of cancer helps doctors a chance of treating the disease more effectively. Early detecting of cancer also ensures that you are getting the right medications for treating the associated symptoms of weight loss due to cancer. This could either be an oral antibiotic or even an anti-diarrheal.

There are also other types of medications, such as progesterone therapy and steroids that help boost your appetite and help in weight gain, thus enhancing your overall sense of well-being and stopping the weight loss.

It is not recommended that if you are experiencing unexplained weight loss, you immediately assume that you have cancer. In fact, this will only add to your stress, leading to further weight loss. Approach your doctor and follow the prescribed course of diagnosis and treatment that your doctor recommends.

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 9, 2021

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