Upper gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with advanced cancer: Relationship to nutritional and performance status

G. Bovio, G. Montagna, C. Bariani, P. Baiardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The goals of the study were to determine the relationship of upper gastrointestinal symptoms with nutritional status and to assess their association with performance status in patients with advanced cancer. We studied 143 patients (50 F, 93 M, mean age 68∈±∈11 years, mean body mass index 22.39∈±∈4.3 kg/m2). Assessed symptoms were the following: anorexia, nausea, vomiting, dysphagia for solids, dysphagia for liquids, xerostomia, hypogeusia, dysgeusia, hiccup and chewing disturbances. We determined anthropometric parameters, daily energy intake and serum albumin, prealbumin and transferrin. The most common upper gastrointestinal symptoms were xerostomia (73%), anorexia (49%) and chewing disturbances (40%). Fifty-four percent of patients had weight loss greater than 10%. Seventy-three patients (51%) had daily energy intake lower than their resting energy expenditure. Mean serum prealbumin, albumin and transferrin were below normal range. Mean Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status scale was 3. 1∈±∈0.49. Symptoms were often strongly correlated, and usually, patients experienced at least three upper gastrointestinal symptoms at the same time. Anorexia, nausea and vomiting were the symptoms mostly correlated with other symptoms. A correlation was found between vomiting and hiccup. Energy intake (EI) was the nutritional parameter mostly affected by upper gastrointestinal symptoms; moreover, EI is the most predictive factor of upper gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly xerostomia, anorexia and dysphagia for solids. Upper gastrointestinal symptoms are linked to nutritional parameters: In particular, energy intake represents the most predictive variable of symptom occurrence. The performance status is not affected by upper gastrointestinal symptoms. A rigorous nutritional assessment and the managing of upper gastrointestinal symptoms are crucial in patients with advanced cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1324
Number of pages8
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


  • Advanced cancer
  • Nutritional status
  • Palliative care
  • Performance status
  • Upper gastrointestinal symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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