The experience of cancer cachexia: A qualitative study of advanced cancer patients and their family members

Joanne Reid, HP McKenna, D Fitzsimons, TV McCance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background
Cachexia in advanced malignancy is a debilitating syndrome which contributes to approximately two million deaths worldwide annually. In spite of advances in understanding the biomedical aspects of cancer cachexia, little attention has been paid to exploring its holistic impact on patients and those who care for them.

Objective
The aim of this paper is to describe the lived experience of cachexia from the perspective of patients with cancer and their family members.

Design
An interpretative phenomenological approach was employed.

Setting and participants
A purposive sampling strategy recruited 15 patients and 12 family members from the Regional Cancer Centre in Northern Ireland.

Method
Each participant was interviewed during 2004/2005 using an unstructured interview. All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Analysis combined a two stage approach using thematic and interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results
Analysis generated six superordinate themes that reflected the complex dynamics of the cachexia experience. Themes were: physiological changes in appetite; visuality of cachexia; weight loss interpreted as a bad sign; response from health care professionals; conflict over food; and coping responses.

Conclusions
Findings confirmed that cancer cachexia has far reaching implications for patients and their families, extending beyond physical problems into psychological, social and emotional issues. This insight is a critical first step in the development of more responsive care for these clients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-616
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Volume46
Issue number5
Early online date10 Dec 2008
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

If 2.2
ranked 2/60 Nursing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)

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