Word on Health

Word On Cancer and Nutrition

Our grateful thanks to the Malnutrition Pathway and the Head and Neck Cancer Foundation for their contribuition to our on-air radio report which you can hear again on the audio player below.

As we reported, the Malnutrition Pathway has developed a new online resource focusing on optimising the nutritional care of patients with cancer to enable health and care professionals to recognise nutritional issues and provide first line advice supported by downloadable patient fact sheets.  

Nutrition is considered highly important by cancer patients across their trajectory of care, from the period of diagnosis through treatment and beyond into survivorship and in palliation.  Many patients will experience diet-related issues throughout the journey which can persist well beyond the treatment phase.  These issues not only contribute to the development of malnutrition but create distress and add to existing anxieties. In addition, disease-related malnutrition, cachexia and sarcopenia (loss of muscle) result in poorer outcomes and increased mortality, hence where possible should be prevented, identified and treated.  

Studies suggest an estimated 1 in 3 patients with cancer attending out-patients are at nutritional risk and up to 83% of patients experience malnutrition during the course of their disease depending on the type of cancer, treatment and nutritional assessment method used.  

Nutritional risk is associated with a number of common clinical issues (e.g. fatigue, anorexia, gastrointestinal symptoms, sore mouth). These issues are usually noted and recorded but importantly should act as an indicator for the healthcare team that further nutritional assessment may be warranted, triggering a referral for more detailed assessment by a dietitian or nutrition team4.  

‘Nutritional issues and poor nutritional status can result from the local effects of the cancer itself, the metabolic response to the cancer, and the treatments used such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and surgery’ says Mhairi Donald, Consultant Oncology Dietitian. ‘All of these can have immediate short-term effects, as well as longer-term effects, limiting the ability to eat and drink.  It is therefore important that we seek to optimise the nutritional status of patients at diagnosis, during prehabilitation, treatment and rehabilitation.’ 

The ‘Optimising Nutritional Care in Cancer’ web resource is available free to access here   A number of patient information sheets provide top tips on managing nutrition impact symptoms such as reduced appetite, dry mouth, taste changes, swallowing issues, altered bowel habit and fatigue, as well as a fact sheet focusing on getting ready for treatment (prehabilitation).  All are free to download within the resource. 

Listen to this weeks radio report

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