Quality of Life Issues When Dealing with Cancer-related Cachexia

Cachexia, or wasting syndrome, is a condition that presents itself in patients with particular chronic and terminal diseases. Patients with cachexia experience severe weight loss, in addition to wasting of the muscles of the body, and they develop a characteristically thin, sunken experience with a related loss of energy. This condition can weaken the body, which makes it harder for the patient to battle the disease, and it also leads to significant impairments in quality of life, as at some point the patient will be bedridden because of fatigue, anemia, and muscle deterioration. Although cachexia is frequently attributed to inadequate food intake, the condition is more complicated than this. Many cachexic individuals do experience anorexia, also known as appetite loss, but even if they eat sufficiently, they will nevertheless experience wasting syndrome. Cachexia is characterized by metabolic irregularities which cause the body to begin breaking down its own tissues, and malabsorption, wherein the digestive tract can’t absorb nutrition from the foods the patient consumes. Treatment for cachexia typically focuses on providing intensive nutrition so the patient receives proper nutrition, and addressing some of the metabolic abnormalities associated with the wasting syndrome. A health care provider might also adjust a patient’s medications to promote the development of an appetite, and techniques like massage and physical therapy could be used to reduce muscle loss and to keep the patient active. Patients with AIDS, cancer, congestive heart failure, and intestinal parasites all can experience cachexia. The condition is normally worse in men compared to women. Health professionals usually determine that a patient has cachexia when the patient loses five percent or more of his/her pre-diagnosis weight. Quite a few treatment facilities take active steps to reduce or prevent wasting syndrome. Family and friends of people with cachexia often find the physical changes alarming and discouraging, as the wasting syndrome is an obvious reminder that the patient is suffering from severe health problems. Individuals who are diagnosed with illnesses which frequently lead to cachexia might want to discuss this issue with close friends and family to ensure that people are prepared, and friends and family may also be able to provide assistance which will help patients cope with wasting. Quality of life for patients with wasting syndrome is often a major issue. With the wasting comes a reduction in energy, and patients may begin to feel listless, or start to give up. When cachexia results in hospitalization, this is often extremely frustrating and psychologically traumatic for the patient. It is crucial for hospitalized patients to be supported emotionally in addition to physically by their medical teams so that they stay encouraged and engaged in treatment.