Not Eating

I'm new here so I'm not at all sure I've placed this in the correct forum, so please forgive me.  A life long friend is a throat cancer survivor now for about 6 months.  She still has the feeding tube which the doctors wanted to pull 3 months ago, but because she is not eating, relying solely on 3 Ensures daily through her tube and sodas, not gaining weight, they've kept it in place.  She has had the swallowing scans and just about everything anatomocailly ruled out that might keep her from eating.  Still, she will not eat, she will not even try. Everything we suggest she try, she always has some reason for not being able to eat it.  Two days ago she had her third hospitalization due solely to the fact that she is not eating.  Her three sons and her primary caretaker have thrown up their hands in frustration and disgust and basically given up, saying she's just trying to get attention and she is lazy, which unfortunately was part of her basic personality before cancer.   Meanwhile, she is starving herself.  Hospitalizing her, seeing her doctors, telling her she needs to eat and sending her home is not working anymore, but no one seems willing to try, and the doctor's aren't suggesting psychological exam, which I believe she needs.  Unfortunately, I am not in a position to request this as I cannot make medical decisions for her and my suggestions to her family have gone ignored.  I guess what I need to know most is, is refusing to eat a common issue? Or, is there something else going on with her that is causing her to refuse to eat and just not seem to care whether she does or not, and what can I do to help her.


  • debbiejeanne
    debbiejeanne Member Posts: 3,102 Member
    lilbug, welcome. 

    lilbug, welcome.  unfortunately there is nothing u can do.  nobody can make her eat, she has to want to.  if there is no physical reason she can't eat, then maybe like u said, she likes the attention.  most on here COULDN'T eat after tx for a while but couldn't wait to be able to eat again.  maybe others who chime in will have suggestions.  i would think the doctors would have something to say.  good luck.


  • jim and i
    jim and i Member Posts: 1,788 Member
    lilbug, sorry to hear your

    lilbug, sorry to hear your friend has given up. Her reasons could be anything from giving up to fear of choking. Unfortunately for you there is nothing much you can do except encourage and pray for her. The old saying  is true, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." I do wonder however, why the doctors do not prescribe a high calorie nutrition formula for her tube. My husband truly cant eat and he is on presription nutrition. Which keeps his weight up and provides nutrients.


  • Ladylacy
    Ladylacy Member Posts: 773 Member
    Swallow studies

    Swallow tests are great if done correctly they are not always right.  Have they gone down her throat into her esophagus?  While my husband after his first round of radiation, tried and tried, he couldn't swallow at all.  Then when he had to have surgery, they found out that his throat was completely closed off due to the radiation and it had to be reconstructed something that didn't show up on the PET/CT scan that was done after completion of his radiation.  Second round of radiation did close off his throat but the head and neck specialist was able to open his throat without a problem, thank goodness.  Now he is depended on his feeding tube due to a large tumor and spread for which he said no more treatments. 

    If your friend is doing this for attention, there are many out there that would love to be able to eat again but can't and if she doesn't swallow her muscle will become useless and she won't be able to swallow.  If the doctors can't find a reason, then I am surprise that they don't have a psychological exam done and I would think her sons would want her to. 

    Sorry, but if she doesn't want to even try, there is nothing that can be done other than force feeding her thru her feeding tube which she can reject if she is of sound mind.

  • CivilMatt
    CivilMatt Member Posts: 4,698 Member
    took me 7 months


    Welcome to the H&N forum, where eating is on our plate.

    I did not eat seriously for 7 months post treatment.  I would sample things all the time, but the awful feel and texture of 99% of all foods keep me away.  I lived on smoothies for the most part and was happy with that (they were good).  It is just the way it was, I wasn’t mental and definitely was not after attention, food just felt funny (weird).

    Then one day I was on a job and presented with the problem of ordering a normal lunch,  I chose a turkey sandwich and it felt pretty good and tasted fair.  It was just like a switch got flipped and I was back to eating (fairly) normally.

    Today, I eat just about everything, but slower and with a lot of liquids.

    That is my story,


  • Skiffin16
    Skiffin16 Member Posts: 8,304 Member

    As all have mentioned..., without more info on exactly why she is refusing to eat, we can't really offer much more than has been given.

    If it's just a matter of no taste, no saliva, etc..., most all of us go (some have no taste more than others, LOL...but that's a different story) through that. For some it's a problem, other not so much. Eating and drinking are simply for taking in calories and hydration when it comes down to it, enjoyment is a plus.

    Like also mentioned, most of us can't wait to start eating real food again..., even if it tastes like crap, LOL.

    Myself and others were absorbed to the point of recording and watching food channels, LOL...

    So from the way that I see it..., you can't help her unless she wants to be helped..., but communication id the key..., Why specifically does she not eat..



  • phrannie51
    phrannie51 Member Posts: 4,716

    you said "everything we suggest she try, she has the same reason for not being able to eat it".  What precisely is the reason she gives? 

    You also state that her swallowing seems to be intact from scans....were those given by a swallow therapist?  Has anyone suggested she see a speech therapist to try and figure out what is going on?  I'm just thinking that her follow up scans after cancer aren't reliable in terms of deciding swallowing ability.  Frankly, I found tube feeding way more work than getting back to eating the old fashioned way.  It quicker than by mouth, but it certainly has it's own set of chores to do when using the other words, lazy might not be the case here at all.

    There are a few folks out there who are fearful of going back to fearful they cling to their tubes.  Fear of choking, is the biggie. 


  • PJ47
    PJ47 Member Posts: 376
    One suggestion is to try a

    One suggestion is to try a medication to increase her appetite.  Many persons with cancer have no appetite.  Sometimes it is caused by the illness and sometimes by depression.  One medication is call Megace (don't know if I spelled it right).  A mental health evaluation may be helpful as well.  PJ