Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition Support for Adults with Cancer

What is enteral nutrition support?

Enteral nutrition is feeding that use a person's gastrointestinal tract (gut). Sometimes, a PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) tube is used instead. This is a tube put surgically through the skin of the stomach wall and placed directly into the stomach. It is used to give nutrients to patients who cannot swallow. Or a similar tube, known as a J-tube (for jejunostomy), can be surgically placed into the small intestine. These alternatives to oral feedings may be only for a short time. Your healthcare provider or registered dietitian will talk about these choices with you if it is needed to help you maintain your nutritional status during your cancer treatment.

What is parenteral nutrition support?

Parenteral nutrition is delivered through the veins directly into the blood. In some cases, people having treatment for cancer need total parenteral nutrition (TPN) to help meet their nutritional needs. TPN is a special mixture of glucose, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals that are given through an intravenous (IV) line into the veins. This procedure is called intravenous feedings. A central venous catheter is typically used to give TPN. It is put into a large vein and can stay in place for a long period of time. TPN gives needed nutrients when someone is not tolerating food by mouth, not absorbing nutrients in the gut, or needing bowel rest. The TPN fluid is often taken in continuously over several hours of the day. While TPN may be needed, there are side effects that should be discussed with the healthcare team.