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Cancer cachexia presented by Jane Harrowfield Clinical Lead Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

“Cancer cachexia is a multifactorial syndrome that is defined by an ongoing loss of skeletal muscle mass (with or without loss of fat mass) that cannot be fully reversed by conventional nutritional support and that leads to progressive functional impairment”

Fearon K, Strasser F, Anker SD, et al. Definition and classification of cancer cachexia: an international consensus. Lancet Oncol. 2011;12:489-495

Jane explained the key differences between starvation (reduced intake without metabolic change which is reversible), malnutrition (+/- reduced intake and metabolic change which is reversible) and cachexia.

It is important to be able to identify cancer cachexia and once it has been recognised, there may be difficult conversations about intervention. Jane described not only the pathophysiology and diagnosis of cancer cachexia but helped us think about the nutritional support we offer.

Jane Harrowfield is the Clinical Lead Dietitian at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. She has been a dietitian for over 12 years and has worked in many different settings but always came back to oncology, an area of dietetics she is particularly passionate about. She has extensive experience managing patients with head and neck cancer and is currently the head and neck nutrition team leader. She has a Master’s in Public Health which provided her interest in frameworks to ensure provision of effective, appropriate and equitable health care.

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