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Cachexia is a condition that often develops in the advanced stages of chronic disease. Cachexia in general refers to a wasting syndrome, where there is progressive loss of skeletal muscle, diaphragmatic as well cardiac muscle, intense fatigue and progressive weakness. It is commonly observed in diseases such as cancer, AIDS, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure (CHF) and chronic renal failure.
Cachexia is associated with significant morbidity and risk for death, due to factors that include skeletal muscle loss, loss of diaphragmatic and cardiac muscle, longer time periods for convalescence and elevated infection risks. In 2006, it was estimated that in the United States alone, 5 million people suffered from cachexia.
Cachexia is a serious complication in advanced cancer that affects at least 80% of patients with refractory disease. The presence of cachexia heralds an overall poor prognosis. These patients typically have a decreased performance status, lower quality of life and ultimately decreased overall survival. Despite the high incidence of this condition, there remains no effective treatment.
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