Background In Ireland, continuing increases in cancer survivorship rates have placed cancer survivorship care to the forefront in terms of strategic planning and service requirements.1 Nutrition is an important component of the cancer care continuum,2 however despite this those with cancer report poor access to credible nutrition advice.3
Aims The aim of this research was to investigate 1) current nutritional issues; 2) proportion receiving nutrition advice from a dietitian and 3) additional sources of nutrition advice.
Methods This cross-sectional study recruited Irish cancer survivors over the age of 18, who were not palliative and had completed active cancer treatment at least six months ago. A questionnaire on Microsoft Forms consisting of open and closed demographic, clinical and nutritional questions was developed and recruitment took place via social media platforms between October and December 2020.
Results Participants (n=169) were mainly female (n=145, 85.8%); diagnosed with breast cancer (n=109, 64.5%); living in the Republic of Ireland (n=154, 91.1%) and had completed active treatment in the last five years (n=101, 59.9%). The mean age was 51.4 ± 10.9 years. 3.6% were underweight and 56.5% overweight or obese. One third (n=57, 33.3%) had experienced weight gain in the previous six months, 10.1% (n-17) weight loss and 22.5% (n=38) weight fluctuations. The majority reported decreased energy levels post treatment (n=87, 51.5%) and fatigue (n=129, 76.3%). Other nutrition related impact symptoms were still present: pain (n=61, 36.1%); constipation (n=56, 33.1%); diarrhoea (n=28, 16.6%); dry mouth (n=44, 26%); no appetite (n=23, 13.6%); sore mouth (n=21, 12.4%); taste changes (n=21, 12.4%); smells bothering them (n=18, 10.7%). One-fifth (n=35, 10.7%) had access to a dietitian during treatment, only 11.8% (n=20) had access post treatment. One quarter sought advice elsewhere (n=42, 24.9%); with the main additional source of advice being online (n=16; 9.5% of total cohort).
Conclusion The majority of this cohort were classified as overweight or obese with one third reporting recent weight gain. This can increase risk of recurrence and decrease overall survival in those with cancer (4,5), in particular breast cancer (6,7). The majority were still experiencing fatigue, which has been shown to affect those with cancer more than any other symptom (8). The persistence of other nutrition impact symptoms could further impact quality of life. There is a clear need for the provision of nutrition advice to Irish Cancer Survivors. There is a role for all healthcare professionals to provide basic nutrition advice or signpost to evidence-based nutrition resources.
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