A Systematic Review of the Evidence on Symptom Management of Cancer-Related Anorexia and Cachexia

Jean K. Brown

ONF 2002, 29(3), 517-532. DOI: 10.1188/02.ONF.517-532

Purpose/Objectives: To evaluate and synthesize the evidence regarding cancer-related anorexia and cachexia symptom management and make recommendations for future directions.

Data Sources: Cochrane Library, MEDUNE®, CANCERLIT®, CINAHL, Dissertation Abstracts, EBM Reviews—Best Evidence, EMBASE, and the Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects. Current overviews, clinical trials, systematic research reviews, and meta-analyses.

Data Synthesis: All studies focused on increasing food intake. Nonpharmacologic clinical trials increased caloric and protein intake but resulted in no improvement in nutritional status, weight, tumor response, survival, or quality of life. Weight, appetite, and well-being were improved with megestrol acetate, but nutritional status was not improved. Some exercise studies demonstrated improvements in nutrition-related outcomes, but these were not primary research outcomes.

Conclusions: Symptom management of anorexia and cachexia should focus on decreasing energy expenditure or minimizing factors creating a negative energy balance, as well as improving food intake. Increased measurement sensitivity also is needed.

Implications for Nursing: Improved nutritional assessment skills are needed with an emphasis on anticipated problems and current status.

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