Background Individuals undergoing cancer treatment can experience a range of symptoms that can detrimentally impact health, wellbeing and overall quality of life. The effect that this has on food planning and preparation as well as eating behaviours has not been well explored.
Methods This was a cross-sectional survey of ambulatory cancer patients and survivors attending the day ward and outpatient departments of two hospitals in Ireland. This bespoke questionnaire was developed in collaboration with an oncology dietitian and oncology specialist nurse. Recruitment took place between September 2018 and May 2019.
Results A total of 215 individuals completed the questionnaire. The majority were female (n=134, 62.3%), aged 60+years (n=132, 61.4%), living with a partner, family or relatives (n=163, 75.8%), had breast cancer (n=65, 30.3%) and were attending the outpatient clinic (n=131, 60.9%). One quarter (n=54, 25.1%) reported it being more difficult to get to the shops for food since their diagnosis, with one in five (n=46, 21.4%) sometimes struggling to shop as they felt too unwell. Over one third of the cohort reported that the enjoyment they got from cooking and preparing food has changed (n=73, 33.9%). One in ten reported only shopping for food when they have no food left (n=24, 10.7%). One third of respondents found it difficult to finish meals sometimes (n=71, 33%) and sometimes ate for comfort rather than hunger (n=75, 34.8%). One fifth felt too tired to eat (n=44, 20.5%) and reported pressure from others to eat despite not wanting to (n=42, 19.5%). Activity was reported to impact appetite with 39% (n=84) indicating that being less active now has decreased their appetite.
Conclusion Challenges with appetite, preparing and finishing meals and enjoyment of food are prevalent in this group.
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