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July 25, 1980

Nutritional Care of the Cancer Patient

JAMA. 1980;244(4):374-376. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310040056033

A MAJORITY of cancer patients will experience weight loss during the course of their illness. This weight loss differs from that in a healthy person on a reducing diet in that much of the weight loss in the cancer patient is from muscle, causing progressive fatigue, weakness, and inactivity.

Weight loss is an important prognostic factor in the patient with cancer. In a recent study of more than 3,000 patients with a spectrum of tumor types, the median survival of patients who experienced weight loss before chemotherapy was approximately one half that of patients who had not lost weight (except for gastric and pancreatic cancer where the survival was short term for patients with or without weight loss).1 Weight loss was associated with decreased activity level and increased extent of tumor. However, the prognostic effect of weight loss was separable from the prognostic effect of decreased physical activity or