What is cancer?
Under normal circumstances, cells in the body grow and reproduce in a controlled way via cell division. When a cell becomes old or damaged, it dies and a new healthy cell replaces it. During cell division, genes within the cell may become damaged, mismatched, lost or duplicated, which is known as a mutation. These mutations can change the process of producing new healthy cells, which can cause cells to reproduce and grow uncontrollably; this is known as cancer. These cancerous cells can invade healthy tissue and spread to other parts of the body. There are over 200 different types of cancer, each affecting different parts of the body1.
Those with cancer can often experience the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in taste or smell
- Weight loss
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Oral complications (mouth sores, difficulty swallowing)
- Gastrointestinal disturbances (diarrhoea, constipation)
Cancer and its treatment often affects a person’s appetite; it can also affect how the bodynuses food. There is a greater risk of a person with cancer becoming malnourished if they are not able to get the nutrition they need. If a person becomes malnourished, it can affect their ability to receive or complete treatment and recover, which may result in a longer hospital stay5.
1.NHS Choices. Cancer 2014 [cited 2016 June, 28. ]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer/Pages/Introduction.aspx
2. Support MC. Who gets cancer? 2014 [cited 2016 June 28]. Available from:http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/understanding-cancer/what-is-cancer.html#18624.
3. Cancer Research UK. Can cancer be prevented? 2015 [cited 2016 June 28]. Available from:http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/can-cancer-be-prevented
4. Clare Shaw. Manual of Dietetic Practice In: Gandy J, editor. British Dietetic Association Fifth Edition ed. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd; 2014. p. 808.
5. Allard JP, Keller H, Jeejeebhoy KN, Laporte M, Duerksen DR, Gramlich L, et al. Malnutrition at Hospital Admission—Contributors and Effect on Length of Stay A Prospective Cohort Study From the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.
1 in 2 people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime6