Cancer and Appetite
April 5, 2009 2:44 PM Subscribe
My father died from lung cancer a couple of years ago. But did he actually starve to death? And if so, why?
posted by LastOfHisKind to health & fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've been thinking about the actual physiology associated with my father's death and I'm come to appreciate that I'd like to understand a bit more. Briefly, in his late 70s, my father developed lung cancer, did some chemo and radiation, had some bad side-effects, decided to stop treatment other than palative care, and died about a year after the initial diagnosis.
During that year he steadily lost weight. During his last months he also had repeated problems with dehydration requiring brief visits to a hospital for an IV. I remember sitting with him and he would take just tiny, tiny sips of water. A meal would often consist of a can of nutritional drink, like Ensure, sipped from a straw and often unfinished.
I didn't understand then, and I don't understand now, why the simple act of drinking a glass of water was so hard, almost the hardest thing in the world it seemed. Nor do I understand why he had virtually no appetite. Near the end, his doctor even prescribed steroids to encourage weight gain.
I've looked around on the net a bit and all I've seen are coping strategies ("Try eating small meals more often") and pseudo-religious hokum ("The body is getting ready to transition"). As an engineer, with a modest amount of biology under my belt, I'd like to know what was really going on from a physiological point of view. If you can share some insight, I'd very much appreciate it.