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Dell DD
Cachexia in patients with advanced cancer
Clin J Oncol Nurs (2002) 6:235-8.
Cancer cachexia generally is considered to be the end stage in the progression of nutritional deterioration and wasting of malignancy (Ottery, 1995). In patients with advanced cancer, this condition is very common and decreases quality of life, as well as survival (Fearon et al., 2001; Ottery; Smith & Souba, 2001; Whitman, 2000). However, if early diagnosis and intervention can control cachexia, the potential exists to greatly improve a patient's quality of life and prolong survival. Because metabolic alterations inhibit the effective use of conventional nutritional support, anti-inflammatory agents or fish oil are possible options. Orexigenic agents may be prescribed if patients wish to improve oral intake. Steroids and progestational agents may be used to attempt to improve mood and appetite. Nutrition affects symptoms that need to be managed effectively. Nurses should work aggressively to correct factors that contribute to decreased food intake (e.g., nausea, pain) and correct factors that worsen debility (e.g., anemia). Information must be presented so that informed choices can be made and realistic eating goals set. An interdisciplinary approach that involves the nurse, physician, dietician, and possibly social worker or case manager, as well as the patient and family, is necessary to identify nutritional alterations, assess specific needs, and plan individual interventions. Whitman (2000) stated that counseling is the most effective and least expensive intervention. It may be conducted by any member of the healthcare team and should be combined with other interventions. Palliation of cachexia in patients with advanced cancer is a challenge for nurses. Hopefully, early and judicious use of these interventions may decrease the significant morbidity and mortality that result from cancer cachexia.
Publication Date: 2002-07-01.
Last updated on Saturday, August 22, 2020