Home » Survey Reveals Up To 80% Of Cancer Patients Are Malnourished And Less Than 40% Are Evaluated At Diagnosis

Survey Reveals Up To 80% Of Cancer Patients Are Malnourished And Less Than 40% Are Evaluated At Diagnosis

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Survey Reveals Up To 80% Of Cancer Patients Are Malnourished And Less Than 40% Are Evaluated At Diagnosis

According to the results of a national survey conducted by NutriOnc, a multidisciplinary group made up of health care professionals who provide cancer care, less than 40% of cancer patients receive a nutritional evaluation at the time of diagnosis.

According to the results of a national survey conducted by NutriOnc, a multidisciplinary group made up of health care professionals who provide cancer care, less than 40% of cancer patients receive a nutritional evaluation at the time of diagnosis. This figure is worrying, as malnutrition has been estimated in up to 80% in these patients, and only less than 30% of them receive adequate treatment. Lack of accurate nutritional assessment can lead to a variety of adverse consequences, including prolonged hospital stays, increased morbidity and readmissions, as well as higher mortality rates.

Malnutrition in cancer patients can impair their ability to tolerate chemotherapy, reduce quality of life, and adversely affect overall survival. However, attitudes towards this issue vary greatly among oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists, due to the lack of structured collaboration between healthcare professionals.

The survey conducted by NutriOnc involved 215 Italian health workers under the age of 40 and revealed that only 57% of those interviewed said they regularly subject patients to nutritional screening. Additionally, the timing of nutritional assessment varied: 37.8% were assessed at diagnosis, 25.9% before surgery, 16.7% after surgery, 13.5% before radiochemotherapy, and only 7% after radiochemotherapy.

As regards the management of the nutritional status of cancer patients, 49.3% of the doctors declared that they adopted the ERAS (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) programme. However, 41.8% do not follow a specific protocol due to a lack of educational courses, financial support and understanding.

Interestingly, almost all institutions involved in the survey had a multidisciplinary team (92%) to facilitate treatment decision-making. In the absence of a dietician, nutritional assessment was managed by physicians with clinical expertise in nutritional assessment (35.6%), surgeons (34.3%), medical oncologists/radiation oncologists (36.8%) and nurse case managers ( 6.8%). After hospital discharge, dieticians (59.5%), medical oncologists (20%), surgeons (15.3%) and radiation oncologists (5.12%) were responsible for prescribing nutritional support.

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In the case of malnutrition, the doctors’ choices were oriented towards nutritional counseling (34.8%), oral nutritional supplement (28.8%), enteral nutrition (2.8%), parenteral nutrition (3, 3%) or no treatment (0.9%). During radiotherapy, 95% of physicians stated that patients required nutritional supplementation, with immunonutrition (Imn) prescribed perioperatively (54.5%), before surgery (36.3%) and during neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy (22.3%).

The survey shows that health professionals providing cancer care still have a long way to go to make nutritional care a standardized component of cancer management. However, the positive signals from this intercompany and multidisciplinary investigation should encourage and improve the practice of systematic nutritional screening and management of cancer patients.

The Ministry of Health has also highlighted the importance of foods for special medical purposes, defined as oral nutritional supplements (ONS), for cancer patients. These supplements are considered an important tool to combat malnutrition, increase life expectancy and contribute to a decrease in the impact of the disease.

NutriOnc’s research and the growing attention at institutional level underline the need to adopt multidisciplinary strategies aimed at improving the quality of life of cancer patients. It is critical to ensure timely nutritional assessment and appropriate treatment to address malnutrition, reduce adverse events, and improve the efficacy of new cancer treatments.

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