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Acta Médica Costarricense

On-line version ISSN 0001-6002Print version ISSN 0001-6012


VARGAS-ARCE, Yirley  and  ABARCA-GOMEZ, Leandra. Prevalence of cachexia related to cancer in patients at a primary level: a palliative approachPrevalence of cachexia related to cancer in patients at a primary level: a palliative approach. Acta méd. costarric [online]. 2016, vol.58, n.4, pp.171-177. ISSN 0001-6002.


Cancer cachexia is a multifactorial syndrome, characterized by loss of muscle mass (with or without loss of fat tissue) even before weight loss becomes apparent, which is associated to a functional impairment andwhich is not possible to revert completely alone with nutritional support. Timely identification would help increase the quality of life of these patients. To determine the prevalence of cancer cachexia at the EBAIS of San Isidro in the Health Area of Atenas, Alajuela, Costa Rica, in patients diagnosed with cancer in the period between 2010 to 2013 with the purpose of identifying and characterizing this problem to propose prevention and control measures as part of a of comprehensive and palliative care.


An observational, descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted in patients who were diagnosed with neoplastic disease and in palliative conditions. All patients with oncological disease diagnoses according to CIE10 codes were selected during the study period. Measures of frequency, central tendency and dispersion were calculated. EpiInfo 3.5.5 was used.


The highest percentage of cancer patients was observed in the age group of 65 years and more, 48%. The patients diagnosed with cancer were mostly females, 65.2%. Of the patiens analized, 52% were included in the palliative care of the Health Area of Atenas. It was possible to determine the prevalence of cachexia (using a diagnostic criterion weight loss of more than 5% in the year after diagnosis of oncology cancer disease) of 21.7%, being more frequent in cancers of the digestive tube (8.7%), followed by lung cancer 4.3%.


Cancer cachexia was documented in 21.7% of the cancer patients evaluated at a primary care level. More than half of the persons evaluated were included in the palliative care program, this is beyond what is documented for countries like Spain.

Keywords : Cachexia oncological; palliative care; prevalence; Costa Rica; (Source: DeCS, BIREME).

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