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Understanding Weight Loss in Patients With Colorectal Cancer: A Human Response to Illness

Sunita Bayyavarapu Bapuji
Jo-Ann V. Sawatzky
ONF 2010, 37(3), 303-310 DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.303-310

Purpose/Objectives: To provide a comprehensive overview of weight loss in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) within the context of the Human Response to Illness (HRTI) model.

Data Sources: Research from 1990-2008 and classic research from the 1980s were included. PubMed, CINAHL®, and Google™ Scholar were searched for the terms cancer, CRC, weight loss, and cancer cachexia.

Data Synthesis: Progressive, unintentional weight loss is a common issue in patients with CRC that has a devastating effect on patients' self-image, quality of life, and survival. Physiologic abnormalities, responses to the tumor, and treatments contribute to weight loss in these patients. In addition, cancer cachexia is an end-stage wasting syndrome and a major cause of morbidity and mortality in this population.

Conclusions: The HRTI model provides an appropriate framework to gain a comprehensive understanding of the physiologic, pathophysiologic, behavioral, and experiential perspectives of weight loss and cancer cachexia in patients with CRC.

Implications for Nursing: By examining weight loss in patients with CRC within the context of the four perspectives of the HRTI model, oncology and gastroenterology nurses can gain insight into optimal, evidence-based assessment and management of this patient population. In addition, current gaps in knowledge can be identified and provide guidance for future nursing research.

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