Supportive Care: Cachexia, Anorexia Syndrome

  • Michael John Tisdale
Part of the M. D. Anderson Solid Tumor Oncology Series book series (MDA)

Patients with pancreatic cancer have a high frequency of cachexia (85%) (1), which is characterized by progressive weight loss and depletion of both adipose tissue and skeletal muscle mass. Even at the time of diagnosis, weight loss is apparent (median 14.2% of pre-illness stable weight), and this weight loss is progressive in the absence of effective treatment, increasing to a median of 24.5% over a 6-month period (2). Death normally occurs when the weight loss reaches about 30%, and is likely due to impairment of respiratory muscle function through loss of lean body mass, which decreases from 43.4 to 40.1 kg (2). There is also a substantive loss of body fat from 12.5 to 9.6 kg. In a study to establish factors influencing survival of cancer patients after diagnosis of terminal cancer of the lung, breast, and GI tract, shorter survival was independently associated with a weight loss of >8.1 kg in the previous 6 months and serum albumin levels of <35 g/L (3). In patients with advanced pancreatic cancer there is also a strong inverse relationship between the severity of weight loss and the performance score (4). In addition to the poor survival, patients with weight loss have a lower probability of responding to palliative chemotherapy and a lower quality of life as well as problems with pain or fatigue (5).


Pancreatic Cancer Lean Body Mass Brown Adipose Tissue Pancreatic Cancer Patient Cancer Cachexia 
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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael John Tisdale
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life and Health SciencesAston UniversityBirminghamUK

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