Table of Contents
International Journal of Family Medicine
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 769869, 8 pages
Case Report

Cancer and Anorexia Nervosa in the Adolescence: A Family-Based Systemic Intervention

1Hematology-Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation Unit, Department of Hematology, “G. Pascale” Foundation, IRCCS, 80131 Naples, Italy
2Pediatric Oncology Service, Pediatric Department, Second University of Naples (SUN), 80138 Naples, Italy

Received 3 January 2011; Revised 26 May 2011; Accepted 17 June 2011

Academic Editor: Shobha S. Rao

Copyright © 2011 Gabriella De Benedetta et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective. Anorexia nervosa is difficult to diagnose in cancer patients since weight loss, aversion for food, and eating disturbances are frequent in patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Nevertheless, efforts are mandatory to recognize and manage this condition which may occur also in cancer patients with a special regard to adolescents. Methods. Through the clinical history of Anna, a 15-year-old adolescent with advanced cancer, we describe the effectiveness of a family-based systemic intervention to manage anorexia nervosa occurring in concomitance to osteosarcoma. Results. Through a two-year psychotherapy period involving different techniques applied to the whole family such as family genogram, family collage, and sculpture of family time, Anna was relieved from her condition. Conclusions. Upon early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, anorexia nervosa can be effectively approached in adolescent cancer patients. The presence of a life-threatening medical condition such as cancer may provide motivation for a patient to control disordered eating behavior in the context of an appropriate family-based systemic intervention. The general frame of anorexia occurring in cancer-bearing adolescents is reviewed and discussed.