Healthcare professionals’ response to cachexia in advanced cancer

Claire Millar, Joanne Reid, Samuel Porter

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: Cancer cachexia is a complex metabolic syndrome characterised by severe and progressive weight loss which is predominantly muscle mass. It is a devastating complication of advanced cancer with profound bio-psycho-social implications for patients and their families. At present, there is no curative treatment for cachexia in advanced cancer therefore, the most important healthcare response entails the minimisation of the psycho-social distress associated with it. However, the literature suggests healthcare professionals’ are missing opportunities to respond to the multi-dimensional needs of this population.

Aim: The objective of this study was to explore healthcare professionals’ experience, understanding and perception of need of patients with advanced cancer who have cachexia and their families.

Methods: An interpretative qualitative approach based on symbolic interactionism was adopted. A purposive sample of doctors, nurses, specialist nurses, and dieticians were recruited from a cancer centre in a large teaching hospital in Northern Ireland. Data collection consisted of two phases: focus group interviews followed by individual semi-structured interviews.

Results: Findings from the focus group interviews were used as a framework for the semi structured interview schedule. Results centred on the influence of a variable combination of knowledge, culture, and resources on the management of cachexia in advanced cancer. Data revealed that variation in healthcare professionals’ perceptions of cachexia in advanced cancer, along with their professional ethos, influenced their response to it in clinical practice.

Conclusions: This study has revealed that cancer cachexia is a complex and challenging syndrome which needs to be addressed from a holistic model of care to reflect the multidimensional needs of patients and their families. Effective management will require a combination of knowledge, a supportive culture, and adequate resources.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011
Event6th Cachexia Conference - Milan, Italy
Duration: 08 Dec 201110 Dec 2011


Conference6th Cachexia Conference


Dive into the research topics of 'Healthcare professionals’ response to cachexia in advanced cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this