Managing Weight Loss in Patients With Cancer

Kristen Baileys, RN, MSN, CRNP, OCN®


Patients’ weight and nutrition status will often vary throughout the cancer care continuum. Weight loss might occur before the diagnosis, be one of the presenting cancer symptoms, be related to the tumor itself, or be secondary to side effects of their treatment (e.g., anorexia from chemotherapy or radiation). 

Severe weight loss not only has a major impact on a patient’s quality of life but is directly responsible for up to one-fifth of all cancer deaths. Weight loss in the patient with cancer can lead to negative outcomes, including an increased incidence and severity of treatment-related side effects, increased risk of infection, and ultimately an overall poorer prognosis leading to decreased survival rates. Advanced practice nurses (APNs) must take an active role in assessment and management of weight loss.

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