Health Questions and Answers

Question: What impact does cachexia have in cancer patients?


Cancer cachexia is a syndrome characterized by progressive weight loss, inanition, anorexia, weakness, tissue wasting, and organ dysfunction. Its cause is multifactorial. Patients with cancer often have a loss of appetite as a result of their disease or treatment. Abnormalities in taste and smell contribute to decrease food intake and resulting weight loss. While tumors can prevent the passage of nutrition by direct compression, the metabolic pathways are altered by the tumor release of peptide and cytokines. Examples of these are tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interferon gamma, interleukin-2, and interleuki-6. Intermediary metabolism is also altered, causing a high metabolic rate reflected in an increase in protein breakdown. This alteration occurs even in the face of starvation. The end result is an ineffective use of nutrients.

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