Anorexia is a lack of appetite that results in significant weight loss. For people with cancer, anorexia can be a result of many different factors.

One cause of anorexia is the chemicals released by the cancer itself. Cancerous tumours can release substances which alter gut functions, digestion of nutrients, and hormones affecting the appetite. Radiation and chemotherapy can also worsen the initial effects of the tumour by altering the taste and smell of foods, as well as causing nausea and vomiting.

Another potential source of anorexia in people affected by cancer is depression and pain, which can decrease the desire to eat by causing a loss of appetite or an aversion to food.1

Anorexia can lead to cachexia, which is a progressive wasting disease marked by the loss of fat and muscle. This is associated with increased toxicity of treatment, and therefore treatment interruptions and dose reductions may help. Nutritional interventions can improve outcomes by helping patients maintain weight staying on the intended treatment regimen with fewer changes, improving quality of life, and producing better surgical outcomes.2

Anorexia and Mental Health Organizations

Looking for more resources or information about anorexia and mental health? Listed below are organizations that provide support groups, counselling, information and other resources to help those dealing with mental illnesses.

Canadian Mental Health Association
With over 40 locations across Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) strives to provide Canadians with the resources they need to help eliminate and alleviate mental health illnesses. The Canadian Mental Health Association and Peer Support Canada are working together to offer peer support from those sharing similar experiences. To find the nearest CMHA, click here.

Ottawa Branch:
Canadian Mental Health Association
311 McArthur Avenue, Suite 201
Ottawa, ON K1L 8M3
Tel: (613) 737-7791
Fax: (613) 737-7644
TDD: (613) 737-9480

Champlain East Branch:
Canadian Mental Health Association
329 Pitt Street
Cornwall, ON K6J 3R1
Tel: (613) 933-5845
Fax: (613) 936-2323
Toll-Free: 1-800-493-8271

National Eating Disorder Information Center
Toronto General Hospital
200 Elizabeth Street, ES7-421
Toronto, ON M5G 2C4
Tel: (416) 340-4156
Fax (416) 340-4736
Toll-Free: 1-866-NEDIC-20 (1-866-633-4220)

Westwind Counselling
1605 Victoria Avenue
Brandon, MB R7A 1C1
Tel: (204) 728-2499
Toll-Free: 1-888-353-3372

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