The prevalence of concern about weight loss and change in eating habits in people with advanced cancer

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2006 Oct;32(4):322-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2006.05.012.


Weight loss and anorexia are commonly reported symptoms in people with advanced cancer. Little is known about patient experience of these phenomena, in particular whether they find them of concern. In this study, the prevalence of weight loss and eating-related concern was evaluated in patients with advanced cancer receiving specialist palliative homecare. The survey was a component of a larger study exploring the potential for helping patients and their families live with weight loss and change in eating habits. Patients were under the care of two specialist palliative homecare teams in the south of England in 2003. The questionnaire was distributed to the total eligible caseload of 233 patients with advanced cancer. The response rate was 85%. More than three-quarters of the 199 patients who returned the questionnaires reported weight loss (79%) and/or eating less (76%). Excluding the 32 patients (16%) who had sought help from a family member or friend to complete the questionnaires, more than half (52%) reported concern about weight loss and/or eating. Concern about weight loss or eating was found irrespective of proximity to death. Weight loss and eating-related concerns are commonly experienced by people with advanced cancer receiving palliative homecare. Further work is needed to establish if concerns are amenable to interventions that translate into meaningful outcomes for patients and their families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Terminal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Terminally Ill / statistics & numerical data*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Weight Loss*