The Greek word kachexia derived from cachexia, a term in our language that refers to a state of severe malnutrition that is generated by diseases such as cancer or tuberculosis, among others.
Cachexia is associated with marked weakness, including muscle atrophy. For this reason, the person with cachexia cannot move normally.
According to some researchers, before muscle atrophy occurs, white adipose tissue is replaced by another adipose tissue: brown or brown. In this process energy is wasted and the cachectic state of the individual is aggravated.
Those who suffer from cachexia also experience asthenia: the persistence of a feeling of physical and mental exhaustion. With cachexia also comes anorexia (lack of appetite) and anemia (a reduced concentration of hemoglobin in the bloodstream).
This combination of disorders leads to the syndrome known as anorexia-cachexia, whose acronym is SAC. It is a clinical problem that, as can be deduced from what has been stated in the previous paragraphs, is characterized by a lack of appetite and weight loss. In addition to advanced cancer, this syndrome often appears in AIDS patients and, unfortunately, science has not yet found a cure.
Many of the patients who fight cancer end up dying from cachexia. In the process, the body reacts to the disease by breaking down adipose tissue and muscles, causing loss of weight and muscle mass.
It is believed that about 80% of people with advanced cancer may develop cachexia as tumors cause changes in metabolism. In the framework of palliative care provided to terminal patients, specialists recommend not forcing the subject to eat, but rather trying to whet their appetite with foods that they like and are easy to swallow in small quantities.
The treatment of anorexia-cachexia syndrome, therefore, is not very defined, but rather seeks to counteract the lack of appetite in different ways. One of the products used for this purpose is the female hormone known by the name of megestrol acetate, whose administration is carried out orally and manages to increase the weight of patients in a fairly moderate percentage.
It is important to note that megestrol acetate does not significantly impact the quality of life of cachexia patients, but simply improves their appetite. Regarding its side effects, certain studies have shown that it increases the risk of blood clots and fluid retention.
Blood clots can, in turn, cause pain, redness or swelling in the extremities (usually only one), changes in vision, severe headache and breathing problems that appear suddenly. With regard to fluid retention, its consequence is the formation of edema in the hands or feet. On the other hand, some cachexia patients die from the administration of megestrol acetate.
Medicine has the strange peculiarity of saving lives while treating issues such as death and disease with total coldness; This is not negative, since only with an objective vision and free from the influence of emotions is it possible to advance in the study of science.
In the specific case of patients with anorexia-cachexia, the administration of megestrol acetate is associated with the following statistical data: one in 23 dies; one in 12 gains weight; one in four get an appetite improvement. It should be mentioned that there are no data regarding prolonged use of this product.