A questionnaire study of the approach to the anorexia-cachexia syndrome in patients with cancer by staff in a district general hospital

Support Care Cancer. 2009 May;17(5):503-7. doi: 10.1007/s00520-008-0486-1. Epub 2008 Jul 29.


Goals of work: This questionnaire study was designed to investigate understanding, assessment and management of cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome (ACS) amongst hospital staff.

Methods: Qualified nurses and doctors on general medical and surgical wards within a district general hospital were asked to complete a questionnaire enquiring about understanding of the term cachexia, routine assessment of commonly associated symptoms and approaches to management of three commonly associated symptoms (poor appetite, early satiety and dry mouth).

Main results: One hundred seventeen questionnaires were distributed with 100 returned (86% response rate). Cachexia was most frequently described as weight loss (79%) and anorexia (49%). Some symptoms (including altered appetite, constipation, nausea and vomiting) were routinely assessed during admission or review of these patients. Some common symptoms (including mouth problems, early satiety) were much less likely to be enquired about. Management of the three key symptoms demonstrated a range of approaches with little consistency. Early satiety was particularly poorly managed, with 29% of staff being unable to recognise or treat it.

Conclusions: The study highlights the variable understanding of ACS and the lack of standardised assessment and management tools amongst staff in an acute hospital setting. This is likely to lead to inconsistent, and perhaps inadequate, care of patients with palliative care needs. Greater awareness and basic pathways of care may help to improve the experience of ACS for patients with cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia / etiology
  • Anorexia / physiopathology
  • Anorexia / therapy
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Cachexia / physiopathology
  • Cachexia / therapy*
  • England
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Syndrome