Megestrol Acetate Side Effects + Impact on Appetite

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The treatments used to tackle cancer can take many forms, from a highly localized beam of radiation to toxic medications that circulate through the body, attacking cancerous cells – and healthy ones as well. One of the more specialized kinds of cancer treatment is hormone therapy, which is only used to battle certain types of cancer. Most often, this means cancer of the breast, prostate, or uterus; many patients will have to take hormone therapy medications in conjunction with another type of treatment, such as surgery or chemotherapy. One drug that’s sometimes used to treat these cancers is megestrol acetate, also known by the brand name Megace – a drug that sometimes plays a role in a patient’s medical nutrition support regimen. If you or someone you know is taking or getting ready to take megestrol acetate, continue reading as the people at ENU explain the side effects and appetite changes to look for during treatment.

What is Hormone Therapy?

Unlike chemo and radiation, which can be effective against a wide variety of cancers, hormone therapy tends to be used only in very specific cases of breast, pancreatic, or uterine cancer, and then only some of the time. Hormone therapy works by shifting some aspect of the body’s hormonal balance, either by stopping production of a certain hormone, blocking the receptors for a certain hormone, or otherwise altering conditions in the vulnerable tissues so that the tumor can’t get the chemicals it needs to flourish. A few types of patients are more likely to receive this therapy:

  • Patients who had breast, prostate, or uterine cancer in the past and recently saw a recurrence of their cancer may undergo hormone therapy to fight the spread of the disease.
  • Patients whose breast, prostate, or endometrial cancer has metastasized may receive hormone therapy to slow or stop the spread of new tumors.

In essence, hormone therapy is reserved for cases where a patient’s cancerous cells require hormones to grow; the aim is to deprive the diseased tissue of the food it needs, essentially starving the cancer to death. Megestrol acetate serves this purpose for some patients.

The Effects of Megestrol Acetate

Megestrol acetate is a man-made form of the hormone progesterone, an important chemical for preparing the ovaries for pregnancy; in men, this hormone plays a role in the production of sperm and testosterone. As a treatment for cancer, megestrol acetate works by altering the production of estrogen in the body, potentially interfering with tumors that feed on estrogen to thrive, and it can be administered in combination with another form of treatment, especially chemotherapy. Megestrol acetate has another widespread use, though: It helps improve appetite and prevent muscle wasting in those with cancer or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Many of those who take megestrol acetate will not experience side effects from it, though there may be a host of unpleasant symptoms if chemotherapy is being used as well. Among those who do report some side effects as a result of taking megestrol, these seem to be some of the more common conditions that appear:

  • Weight gain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Impotence
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Insomnia

Other side effects are possible; if you suspect that you might be suffering from one of these conditions as a result of a medication, including megestrol acetate, contact your cancer care team. Because this medication is often used to promote appetite in patients who lose significant body mass, expect to feel greater hunger if you take megestrol acetate, whether it’s for cancer, anorexia, or some other weight loss-inducing illness.

Proper Nutrition for Patients on Megestrol Acetate

Maintaining body weight during cancer treatments can be challenging, but there is no time when nutrition is more important. Patients going through chemo, radiation, and other treatments tend to lose significant amounts of weight due to the side effects of those procedures; mouth sores, nausea, loss of appetite, and difficulty chewing or swallowing can all contribute to the dip in weight, which can leave a patient without the resources to properly heal between treatments or fend off infection.

To ensure that your body has everything it needs to keep working smoothly, it is crucial that you take in enough calories and macronutrients – especially protein – during your recovery, even if it’s through a liquid supplement for cancer patients. Protein is critical for supporting the body’s healing process, and it helps to preserve muscle mass during periods of sickness or inactivity. Cooking with healthy sources of fats and carbs can be important, too, since both provide a much-needed dose of energy to the body. However, most cancer care experts agree that maintaining the right calorie intake should be a patient’s highest priority; whatever form those calories come in is often a secondary concern for patients, though some effort should be made to get a healthful mix of nutrients as well.

Get the Balanced Nutrition You Need with a Meal Replacement Shake

If you lack the energy to prepare meals every day, or if you struggle to consume solid foods because of one or more side effects of your treatment, incorporating meal replacement shakes into your diet can be a helpful step toward proper nutrition. Each shake from ENU contains 17 grams of protein from whey and soy sources, along with complex carbs derived from whole grains and heart-healthy fats drawn from coconut and sunflower oils. Plus, each ENU shake offers a mix of 24 different vitamins and minerals to support the body’s many systems. If you would like to learn more about ENU products and how they can provide a potent weight management tool during cancer, visit us online or call (855) 266-6733 today.