Living with cancer cachexia: Exploring the perspectives of patients and their significant others.

Joanne Reid, Hugh McKenna, Donna Fitzsimons, TV McCance

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Background: Cancer cachexia occurs in up to
80% of all patients with cancer (Salacz, 2006).
It is known to be a distressing problem for both
patients and their families (Boddaert et al,
2006). Despite it prevalence there is a dearth of
evidence into its nature, impact on patients and
effects on their families.

Aim: To explore the lived experience of cachexia
in patients with cancer and their significant

Method: Cancer cachexia was defined as:
the involuntary weight loss of more than
10% of pre-morbid body weight within the
last six months resulting from tumour induced
metabolic alterations. A purposive sample of
15 patients / 12 significant others was recruited
from a large teaching hospital in Northern
Ireland. Each participant was interviewed
once, using an unstructured interview about
their / their significant other’s experience of
cancer cachexia. All interviews were recorded
and transcribed verbatim for analysis. A dual
stage approach to analysis, combining thematic
analysis and interpretative phenomenological
analysis, was used. All ethical requirements
for this study were met prior to the study

Results: Analysis generated important themes,
which reflect the holistic dimensions of the
experience of cancer cachexia. The implications
of weight loss and the reactions that manifest
were key findings. Furthermore, the family
dynamic, the focus on food consumption as an
indicator of well-being, and the lack of insight
and understanding of participants regarding
food and its relationship to cachexia provide
powerful messages for the health care professionals’
caring for this client group.

Conclusions: This study is distinctive in that it
provides an in-depth understating of what cancer
cachexia means for patients and their families,
thus increasing professional understanding of
this issue. Furthermore, it contributes to the
present knowledge base in relation to cancer
cachexia thus providing evidence for future
development of nursing care that will positively
impact on service delivery.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventInternational Nursing Research Conference, Royal College of Nursing - Dundee, United Kingdom
Duration: 01 May 200704 May 2007


ConferenceInternational Nursing Research Conference, Royal College of Nursing
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'Living with cancer cachexia: Exploring the perspectives of patients and their significant others.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this