Health Questions and Answers

Question: What relationship does malnutrition have to radiation therapy for cancer?


Just as in other therapies for cancer, malnourished patients undergoing radiation therapy have increase morbidity and mortality. Radiation therapy can contribute directly to the malnutrition. The effect on the severity of malnutrition and amount of weight loss id dependent on the radiation dose, duration, volume of therapy, and body site being irradiated. Nutritional alterations may be site specific to local therapy. Example of this are nausea and vomiting caused by central nervous system irradiation, and enteritis and malabsorption caused by abdominal irradiation. These acute effects usually improve but may cause the dose of radiation to be limited which, in turn, leads to poorer response rates. As with chemotherapy, there is no evidence that provision of nutritional support to patients receiving radiotheraphy can influence the end result.

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