Unidentified cachexia patients in the oncologic setting: Cachexia UFOs do exist

Elisabeth De Waele, Joy Demol, Riccardo Caccialanza, Paolo Cotogni, Herbert Spapen, Manu Lng Malbrain, Jacques De Grève, Joeri J Pen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: Cachexia is an important outcome-modulating parameter in patients with cancer. In the context of a randomized controlled trial on cachexia and nutritional therapy, the TiCaCONCO (Tight Caloric Control in the Cachectic Oncologic Patient) trial, the contacts between patients with cancer and health care practitioners and oncologists were screened. The aim of this retrospective study was to identify in the charts the input of data on body weight (necessary to identify cachexia stage), relevant nutritional data, and nutritional interventions triggered or implemented by oncologists and dietitians.

METHODS: In a tertiary, university oncology setting, over a time span of 8 mo (34 wk), the charts of patients admitted to an oncology, gastroenterology, or abdominal surgery unit were screened for the presence of information contributing to a cancer cachexia diagnosis. Data (patient characteristics, tumor type, and location) was gathered.

RESULTS: We analyzed 9694 files. Data on body weight was present for >90% of patients. Of the 9694 screening, 118 new diagnoses of cancer were present (1.22% of patient contacts). Information on weight evolution or nutritional status was absent for 54 patients (46%). In contacts between oncologists and patients with cancer, at the time of diagnosis, cachexia was present in 50 patients (42%). In 7 of these patients (14%), no nutritional information was present in the notes. Of the 50 patients with cachexia, only 8 (16%) had a nutritional intervention initiated by the physician. Nutritional interventions were documented in the medical note in 11 patients (9%) in the overall study population. Dietitians made notes regarding nutrition and weight for 49 patients (42%). We could not demonstrate a difference in mortality between cachectic and non-cachectic patients, although numbers are small for analysis.

CONCLUSION: Patients newly diagnosed with cancer are not systematically identified as being cachectic and if they are, interventions in the field of nutrition therapy are largely lacking. Important barriers exist between oncologists and dietitians, the former being mandatory to the success of a nutrition trial in cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-204
Number of pages5
Early online date27 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Cachexia
  • Cancer


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