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.

What ECPC does

In 2018, ECPC in collaboration with nutrition experts submitted a scientific paper titled ‘Nutritional and metabolic derangements in Mediterranean cancer patients and survivors: the ECPC 2016 survey’ to the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle. This paper provided a solid basis for the development of the ECPC Nutrition Booklet ‘Living Well During Cancer Treatment’. This Booklet includes our Cancer Patients’ Charter of Rights for Appropriate and Prompt Nutritional Support. This charter is a key advocacy tool for patient organisations at national level. Nutrition and Physical Activity Awareness Month is celebrated every year in March. It is dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of nutrition and physical activity for people with cancer and is aligned with the American National Nutrition Month, a campaign run annually in March by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

We, at the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC), have always focused our efforts on playing an active role in promoting the well-being of people with cancer. In this regard, we are publishing in March our ‘Living Well During Cancer Treatment’ Patient Booklet on the impact of nutrition and physical activity on cancer treatment and rehabilitation, a social media campaign toolkit, and an infographic that has been translated into 8 languages.

The management of nutrition and physical activity is becoming more important for people with cancer, as survival and quality of life are increasing. Join us in promoting Nutrition and Physical Activity Awareness Month!