Cancer Survivors Urgently Need Better Nutritional Support

Dawn O'Shea

September 28, 2020

New research from the University of Sheffield has revealed an urgent need to improve nutritional support for patients with colorectal cancer (CRC).

More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of the CRC patients who took part in the national survey said they did not receive any nutritional advice or support from their health care team throughout diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment, including those with a stoma.

A large proportion of those surveyed reported facing a number of nutritional difficulties including being unsure about what to eat, diarrhoea, appetite loss and changes to taste and smell.

Many cancer survivors said they had sought nutritional advice online from a variety of sources, mainly charity websites such as Bowel Cancer UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

The research, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, also highlighted cancer patients' desire for individualised advice relating to their specific nutritional problems.

Dr Bernard Corfe, lead author of the study, said: "Patients with bowel, colon and rectal cancer do not feel that they are getting the nutritional support and advice they need."

"Many colorectal cancer survivors have to adapt to a new way of life after their treatment - especially those who are fitted with a stoma bag. It is so important that they receive nutritional guidance from their health care team, both during and after treatment, rather than having to search for the information online which may lead to patients accessing unverified or even unreputable sources."

"It is vital that patients feel supported to overcome their specific nutritional difficulties and the advice is personalised for them and their lifestyle. For example, a young patient living with a stoma is going to have very different questions and support needs to an older patient being treated for advanced bowel cancer.”

National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that after CRC treatment, patients should be offered comprehensive advice on managing the effects of treatment on their bowel function, including information on diet, as their treatment may include partial resection or temporary or permanent stoma.

Researchers now hope to work with health care professionals in order to help better support patients to overcome nutritional difficulties. The Sheffield team have begun collaborating on an app that could help to give patients individual and approved nutritional advice without the need for extra resources, reducing pressure on health care professionals.

Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics: Investigating the nutritional advice and support given to colorectal cancer survivors in the UK: is it fit for purpose and does it address their needs? First published: 20 September 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.12815

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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