Should You Be Worried About Unexpected Weight Loss?

 

Losing weight can be a good thing. It can mean that you’re eating better and exercising more. But sometimes, weight loss can happen for reasons that aren’t so positive.

If you’re losing weight without trying, it’s important to find out why. Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of an underlying health condition.

Unintentional Weight Loss and Cancer

One of the most serious causes of unexplained weight loss is cancer.

In many cases, unintentional weight loss is the first noticeable symptom of some types of cancer.

Weight loss is associated with cancers such as:

  • prostate
  • colorectal
  • lung
  • gastro-oesophageal
  • pancreatic
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • ovarian
  • myeloma
  • renal tract
  • biliary tree

This weight loss may be related to other symptoms that are often found with these cancers, such as:

  • loss of appetite
  • indigestion
  • change in bowel movements
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fatigue
  • persistent pain

Growing tumors also use up a lot of energy, leading to weight loss.

But cancer is not the only explanation for unintentional weight loss. These symptoms often have less serious conditions.

Other Possible Causes of Unexpected Weight Loss

There are many other potential causes of unintentional weight loss, including:

  • anxiety
  • celiac disease
  • Chrohn’s disease
  • chronic stress
  • dental problems
  • depression
  • HIV
  • hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
  • medications and drugs
  • parasitic infections
  • peptic ulcers
  • ulcerative colitis

These conditions may be a more likely explanation than a cancer diagnosis, but it’s still important to see a doctor if you’re losing weight without trying.

When to See a Doctor About Unexpected Weight Loss

If you are concerned about unexplained weight loss, make an appointment with your doctor.

The general recommendation is to see a doctor if you lose more than 5% of your body weight over 6 to 12 months with no known explanation.

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 5% weight loss would be 10 pounds.

But even a small amount of weight loss can be a cause for concern. It’s important to find out the reason for your weight loss, especially if you’re not trying to lose weight.

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your medical history, diet, and other lifestyle factors. They may also order tests to rule out other conditions.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any other symptoms you’re experiencing. This will help them make a more accurate diagnosis and begin treating the problem as soon as possible.

If you have unexplained weight loss and other symptoms, cancer may be the cause. But in most cases, there will be another explanation.