Elizabeth McCreery, John Costello

International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Vol. 19, Iss. 1, 25 Jan 2013, pp 32 - 37

Malnutrition is the single most common secondary diagnosis for patients with advanced cancer, and can affect up to 85% of patients. Anorexia and weight loss affect up to 80% of patients and are responsible for death in up to 20% of cases. Cancer cachexia is a feature of advanced cancer characterised by anorexia and a progressive loss of body weight, reduced immune response, poor treatment response, and poor quality of life. Providing effective nutritional support for patients who experience cancer cachexia at the end of life is very challenging and requires a multidisciplinary team approach to consider the implications beyond the patient's dietary needs being met. Evidence suggests that health professionals have limited understanding of cachexia and are often at a loss as to how to manage patients who experience this severe form of weight loss. The purpose of this article is to examine the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer who experience cachexia. The article covers the aetiology and management of the condition as well as current treatment methods and management strategies. In particular, it emphasises the advantages of the Macmillan approach to weight and eating. This approach focuses on the social aspects of eating and weight gain, indicating the importance of considering the effects of malnutrition on both the patient and the carer.

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