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What Type of Chemo Medication Causes Loss of Appetite?

Patients who are forced to undergo chemotherapy have to contend with many ailments caused by the very treatment aimed at saving their lives. These side effects can sometimes be minor – constipation, say, or stiffness in the neck – but more often the consequences of chemotherapy are severe, in part because the more debilitating conditions can lead to further side effects. Take appetite, for example; even if the drugs used to attack cancer don’t affect a patient’s appetite themselves, the side effects of the chemo medication might still lead to a loss of hunger – also a potential cause of problems. If you are going through chemotherapy, you might wonder what type of chemo medication causes a loss of appetite and whether tools like liquid supplements for cancer patients can help. To find out more on this topic, keep reading as the people at ENU explain.

Types of Drugs Used in Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is an example of a “systemic” treatment, meaning that it affects the entire body; this is in contrast to a localized therapy like radiation in which one specific area is targeted for treatment. When the drugs used in chemo are administered – typically through an IV infusion, but sometimes in the form of a pill, cream, shot, or another delivery method – they circulate throughout the body, affecting many critical systems as they go. Your doctor will determine which drug you should take according to the type and location of your cancer, among other factors.

However, although they are often placed under the same umbrella – “chemotherapy” – dozens of medications are used to battle cancer, and they work in several different ways. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the classifications of cancer-fighting chemicals and basic descriptions of how they each work.


One of the tactics used to battle cancer is to interfere with the normal metabolic functions of cancerous cells; to accomplish this, some chemo drugs are designed to be very similar to the compounds typically found within a cell. Once a cell absorbs the substance, it is prevented from dividing, thereby stopping the growth of the tumor. Antimetabolites are often used in the treatment of breast, intestinal, and ovarian cancers.

Alkylating Agents

The oldest type of chemotherapy in use today is the alkylating agent, a drug that damages the DNA of cells to prevent them from replicating. While this can be effective at halting the growth of tumors, it can also have a severe impact on a patient’s bone marrow, possibly leading to leukemia later in life. These medications treat many kinds of cancer, from Hodgkin’s lymphoma to lung cancer.

Mitotic Inhibitors

The process of cell division is called mitosis; the drugs that interrupt this process are known as mitotic inhibitors. In the treatment of cancer, mitotic inhibitors are used to keep cancer cells from dividing and spreading, which helps to prevent metastasis, and they sometimes are used to stop the production of proteins that cancer cells rely on. These drugs can help with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and other forms of cancer.

Anti-Tumor Antibiotics

We tend to think of antibiotics as a treatment reserved for infections, but some types of antibiotics can be effective against cancer as well. For example, anthracycline is one cancer-fighting antibiotic; it works by striking at the enzymes in the DNA of cancer cells, halting their reproduction. Due to the risk of long-term damage, however, your doctor will probably limit your time on these medications.

Topoisomerase Inhibitors

Like anthracycline, topoisomerase inhibitors are used to attack key enzymes used in the replication of cancer cells. More specifically, these drugs affect the ability to alter the structure of the cells’ DNA, which is necessary for cell division. Certain types of topoisomerase inhibitors can increase the risk of getting cancer a second time, though, so they tend to be used with caution.

Chemo Medication and Appetite Loss in Cancer Patients

Considering how widespread the loss of appetite is among cancer patients, there are probably many people out there wondering about the connection between this side effect and the various kinds of chemo drugs. The truth is, any chemotherapy medication can cause a lack of appetite, part of why ENU offers protein shakes for cancer patients.

In some cases, the drug itself may act to limit appetite by altering the balance of hormones in the body or causing changes in a patient’s metabolism, making it hard to manage your weight. In other instances, chemo may be the indirect cause because it triggers side effects that affect appetite; a patient with acute nausea and vomiting probably won’t feel hungry if they’ve been throwing up all day, and those with terrible mouth sores may not be able to eat or drink anything.

Keep in mind that cancer can have an impact on appetite, since the disease sometimes affects patients’ metabolisms as well. It can also produce structural changes in the body that make you feel full, such as in cases where a tumor presses on the stomach or causes a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity. If you have experienced a loss of appetite after starting chemo, talk to your cancer care team for suggestions to promote hunger and guard against weight loss.

Stay Nourished During Chemotherapy with a Balanced Meal Replacement Shake

If you rarely feel hungry after chemo, know that you have options that can give you the nutrition your body needs without a big meal. Meal replacement shakes like those from ENU can make it easier to consume calories and nutrients during this critical time in your battle against cancer. To learn more about these products and what benefits they offer, visit ENU online or call (855) 266-6733 today.

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