‘Nutritional and metabolic derangements in Mediterranean cancer patients and survivors: the ECPC 2016 survey‘ was published in Volume 10, Issue 1, February 2019 of the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle.
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Nutrition is a crucial component of cancer treatment and rehabilitation as it helps patients better cope with illness. However, given the focus on the cancer and its cure, nutrition is often neglected, leaving patients and their families with doubts, questions and the need for practical guidance on how to eat better on a daily basis, especially during therapy.
In 2015 ECPC sent out an extensive survey on nutrition and its importance on the treatment and life of cancer patients. The results were presented during the ECPC Annual Meeting 2015 in Brussels. The preliminary data obtained from the survey suggested that discrepancies still existed between patients’ expectations and the answers they may get from physicians about the metabolic and nutritional issues in cancer.
Building up on the pilot survey, in 2016 the European Cancer Patient Coalition continued its efforts with a second round of the survey in order to have enough data and maximise the impact of the answers received. The new version was adapted in order to directly address individual cancer patients and cancer survivors. It aimed to describe and understand the perception of the importance of metabolic and nutritional problems among patients and cancer survivors. The study was conducted by a survey of cancer patients and survivors.
A total 907 patients and survivors, distributed in 10 European countries (Finland, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Greece, Denmark, Slovenia, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria) answered the questionnaire.
Patients were aware that weight loss related to their condition was negatively impacting on their therapy management, quality of life and social aspects. While not aware about cachexia and its implications, they were willing to receive more information about how to manage this issue.
They were also not aware about artificial nutrition options, nor potential negative impacts of vitamins and anti-oxidants on their therapy. Furthermore, they reported that their physicians were generally not focused on nutrition. Respondents reported that their physicians were not regularly checking for weight loss, providing information about weight loss management or appetite improvement, or referring patients to a nutritionist.
The study showed a substantial gap in terms of need for information and practical management of cancer-related nutritional problems for people with cancer.