Why it matters

Nutrition is a crucial component of cancer treatment and rehabilitation as it helps patients cope better 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 in the treatment and life of cancer patients. The preliminary data obtained from the survey suggested that discrepancies existed between patients’ expectations and the answers they may get from physicians about the metabolic and nutritional issues in cancer.

Building on the pilot survey, in 2016 ECPC 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. A total of 907 patients and survivors were surveyed in 10 European countries: Finland, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Greece, Denmark, Slovenia, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria. The study illustrated a substantial gap in terms of need for information and practical management of cancer-related nutritional problems for people with cancer.

“There is a clear need to empower individual patients and patient associations by producing more information on nutrition specific for cancer patients. There is a clear urgency to empower cancer patients and to ensure a unified effort for the application of existing guidelines in daily oncological settings.”

Francesco de Lorenzo, ECPC Past President

What ECPC does

The European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) presented Poster #1450P on 10 September 2017 at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress in Madrid, Spain. ECPC’s European survey of 907 people with cancer about the importance of nutrition Abstract #3714 was also published in the Annals of Oncology, encompassing the perspectives of patients and their physicians on nutritional issues. In November 2017, MEP Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D, Romania), in collaboration with ECPC, hosted an event in the European Parliament on the important topic of the Role of Nutrition in Cancer Care. The event witnessed the launch of the Consultation Document which was adapted to the ‘Living Well During Cancer Treatment’ Booklet.

In 2018, ECPC submitted its scientific paper, titled ‘Nutritional and metabolic derangements in Mediterranean cancer patients and survivors: the ECPC 2016 survey’ to a peer-reviewed journal for publication. This was later published in Volume 10, Issue 1, February 2019 of the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle. The paper provided a solid basis for the development of the ECPC Nutrition Booklet ‘Living Well During Cancer Treatment’ which includes a chapter on the Cancer Patients’ Charter of Rights for Appropriate and Prompt Nutritional Support. The charter serves as a key advocacy tool for member patient organisations at national level.