Some cancer patients do not receive the recommended nutritional advice
Many New Zealand cancer patients do not receive valuable nutritional support that can help with disease prevention and recovery, according to a study from the University of Otago.
Led by Dr Rana Peniamina and Associate Professor Rachael McLean of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, the study aimed to understand and describe the perspectives of cancer survivors and post-diagnosis experiences of diet and nutrition, focusing on Barriers to Healthy Eating, Health Equity, and Māori and Peaceful Perspectives.
“The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Cancer Research Institute recommend that all cancer patients receive professional expert advice and support with diet and nutrition,” said Dr Peniamina.
“However, the experiences of our participants indicate that this is not currently happening in New Zealand.”
Data collected from Maori, Pacific and New Zealand cancer survivors in Europe showed that many cancer survivors had limited knowledge of the role of nutrition in preventing or recovering from cancer, but they would like to have better access to reliable cancer nutrition information and access to support.
Most of the study participants said they had received no or enough nutritional advice as part of their care. A few asked for information when it was not offered, but Maori and Pacific participants – groups at higher risk for cancer and who have higher death rates – were less likely to do so.
“Several participants were unaware that nutrition can play a role in healing and preventing cancer. Some assumed that diet or nutrition was not important because their oncologist had not mentioned it, but said suggested that they would have followed the advice if they had received it, “says Dr Peniamina.
Financial limitations — the cost of healthy foods and low income — and lack of practical support were also significant barriers to healthy eating after diagnosis.
While some participants paid to see a dietitian or nutritionist and were financially able to make dietary changes, many were limited by their budget, especially since they were unable to work due to their health.
Some Maori and Pacific participants said their low income meant they did not have access to enough food, healthy or otherwise.
When patients tried to access nutritional information outside of health care, they were exposed to misinformation, fear-mongering tactics, and the commercialization of expensive and unproven remedies.
“Waiting for people with cancer to ask for nutritional information or find their own information, and not providing support to those who need it will contribute to inequalities in cancer outcomes. “
Dr Peniamina says there needs to be a consistent and systematic national approach to ensure that all cancer patients have an equal chance of receiving good nutrition during and after treatment.
“The creation of Te Aho o Te Kahu (Cancer Control Agency) is a positive step and the New Zealand Cancer Action Plan recognizes the need for a more holistic approach to cancer care.
“However, outside the health system, there is also a need to address the impact of low income and the cost of healthy eating,” she says.
The current health system review should aim to increase dietitian support for people with cancer during and after treatment and to develop a range of cancer-specific nutritional resources for nationwide use, easy to find. understandable and culturally appropriate, she said.
Cancer survivors urgently need better nutritional support
Quote: Some cancer patients are not receiving recommended nutritional advice (2021, November 24) retrieved November 24, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-11-cancer-patients-nutrition-advice.html
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