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Only one third of cancer patients receive information about their diet

Under-nourishment is frequent amongst cancer patients and can reduce their odds of survival. Despite the importance of diet for these patients, a new study, headed by doctors from the Hospital Universitario de la Paz, in Madrid, shows that only one third of cancer patients are given information about this.

“It is essential that we know about cancer patients’ opinions so that nutritional therapy alternatives can be found to improve their quality of life and sense of well-being in general, Carmen Gómez Candela explains to SINC. Carmen Gómez Candela is the principal author of the study and head of the Clinical and Dietetics Department at the Hospital Universitario de la Paz, Madrid.

The research, published recently in the Spanish journal “Nutrición Hospitalaria”, set out to discover cancer patients’ opinions about how important their diet is to them, and about their eating difficulties and body image. The objectives are to develop nutritional interventions and increase their odds of survival.

The research team interviewed 131 patients and they were asked about the importance they gave to these different aspects. The results show that the majority of patients are dependent on their image and their weight and relate this to their diet. 75% of the patients, with an average age of 57 years (45% men and 55% women) are aware of their illness and regard it as “serious” or “very serious”.

According to comments made by Gómez Candela to SINC: “74% of the patients find a relationship between their nutritional status and their physical activities and 73% relate this to their state of mind”. Moreover, nearly half of the cancer patients (48%) consider their state of mind to have deteriorated.

Eating difficulties

Although more that half of the patients said they had some eating difficulties, only a third of the population had been spoken to about their diet at any time. “It is obvious that cancer patients need different effective nutritional intervention measures that could contribute towards improving their sense of well-being”, the author underlines.

The results uphold that 47% of the patients have complained of eating difficulties, and only 34% had received any information about their diet. 26% of the patients had taken nutritional supplements and 81% had a diet with no modifications at all. The most common eating difficulties were loss of appetite (38%), early satiation (32%) and nausea (20%).

“The intervention most requested by patients is nutritional education so they are able to tolerate better the problems that arise from cancer treatments and know what foods to eat and in what quantity”, Gómez Candela points out. The study corroborates the need for patients to receive nutritional intervention measures. More than half of cancer patients have eating difficulties.

SINC Team | alfa
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