Cachexia is an awful condition that is commonly connected with cancer, although it is not restricted entirely to the fearsome disease. It has been linked to about 1 in 5 deaths that occur in the United States as a result of cancer. What causes cachexia and how is the condition treated?
Cachexia is a disorder that causes some unpleasant changes in the body, including muscle atrophy and extreme fatigue. Also referred to as wasting syndrome, it is formally defined as body mass loss that cannot be reversed through nutrition. The condition is mostly seen in people suffering from cancer, in which case it is described as cancer cachexia. Those suffering from lung cancer, stomach cancer and pancreatic cancer are said to be more prone to suffering from this problem. It is often described as a paraneoplastic syndrome, meaning its symptoms are the results of cancer-produced substances or the reaction of the body to the presence of cancer.
This disorder is not limited to cancer patients; people suffering from certain other conditions may also exhibit its symptoms. These diseases or conditions include HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, mercury poisoning, and congestive heart failure. Cachexia elevates the risk of mortality from an underlying condition.
It is not entirely clear what leads to the development of cachexia. It has, however, been postulated that inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-alpha (also known as cachectin or cachexin), interferon gamma, and interleukin 6, contribute to its development. The syndrome may result from the presence of tumor-secreted proteolysis-inducing factor or due to the host response (body’s response to the existence of a tumor). It leads to catabolism or the breakdown of complex molecules needed for normal body functioning. Cachexia is also a symptom of AIDS and taking anti HIV medications could reverse it.
Cachexia both worsens survival chances from underlying conditions and exerts negative impact on the quality of life. Loss of appetite and poor response to standard treatment, among other issues, cause a patient to become largely immobile as a result of physical weakness.
Sometimes, the existence of a cachexia problem is not detected until the underlying condition has reached an advanced stage. A number of measures can be used to determine the presence of this disorder – your doctor will be able to help in this regard. A patient’s body mass index (BMI) and body composition are assessed. Certain blood tests such as white blood cell (WBC) counts and serum albumin test can also be carried out. Transferin levels and inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein may be evaluated as well.
Treatment options that are sometimes explored also include nutritional counseling and psychotherapeutic interventions. Some studies have also suggested that recombinant growth hormone (Somatropin) therapy may be beneficial to people with cachexia. Clinical trials of some new medications are said to be promising for treatment in the future.
It sometimes takes longer time to detect the existence of cachexia in patients who have been diagnosed with certain causative diseases, even when present. For example, its symptoms are commonly noticed at a late stage of cancer development. It is recommended that this disorder be addressed as soon as a diagnosis of a related underlying condition has been made.
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