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Nutrition in Cancer Care (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Nutrition Therapy


Transition to Home

Cancer is one of the most common diagnoses among home parenteral nutrition recipients. The following criteria should be used when assessing the appropriateness of discharge to home on parenteral feeds. The individual must meet the following conditions:[27]

  • Be medically and emotionally stable.
  • Have a relatively long life expectancy (>6 months).
  • Be educated and able to perform the requisite tasks to maintain a sterile access site in a safe and clean environment.
  • Have a long-term access in place and be stable on the formula before being discharged.
  • Have a medical follow-up and support system in place for questions and complications.

Tapering off parenteral nutritional support requires coordination between the medical staff and the patient. Because parenteral support is given continuously, the taper involves a gradual reduction in rate and time. Parenteral nutritional support cannot be abruptly discontinued.

When transitioning to enteral feeds, parenteral support can be decreased to 50% when enteral feeds reach 33% to 50% of the goal rate; it can be discontinued when enteral feeds reach 75% of goal and are tolerated.[27]

When transitioning to oral nutrition, parenteral solutions can be decreased to 50% when the patient is tolerating a full liquid diet or beyond and can be discontinued once solid foods are tolerated in addition to the consumption of adequate fluids.[27]

Both enteral and parenteral nutritional support can be safe and effectively used to help reverse the effects of malnutrition in individuals with cancer. However, nutritional support, particularly parenteral support, is still controversial when used as routine adjuvant therapy to anticancer therapies or when there is an absence of efficacious cancer treatment.[31] Every measure should be employed to sustain an individual and improve his or her condition through oral intake before consideration is given to nutritional support.

Nutritional Suggestions for Symptom Management

Side effects of cancer treatments vary from patient to patient, depending on the type, length, and dose of treatments as well as the type of cancer being treated. This section offers practical suggestions for managing the common symptoms affecting nutrition intake.

Recommendations during treatment may focus on eating foods that are high in energy, protein, and micronutrients to help maintain nutritional status. This may be especially true for individuals with early satiety, anorexia, and alteration in taste, xerostomia, mucositis, nausea, or diarrhea. Under most of these circumstances, eating frequently and including high-energy and high-protein snacks may help overall intake.[25]


Loss of appetite or poor appetite is one of the most common problems that occurs with cancer and its treatment.[32] The cause of anorexia may be multifactorial. Treatment modality, the cancer itself, and psychosocial factors may all play a role in appetite.[32] Eating frequent meals and snacks that are easy to prepare may be helpful. Liquid supplements may improve total energy intake and body function [33] and may work well when eating solids is difficult. Other liquids that contain energy may also help, such as juices, soups, milk, shakes, and fruit smoothies. Eating in a calm, comfortable environment and exercising regularly may also improve appetite.[32]


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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