Survey reveals ‘urgent need’ to improve nutrition advice for cancer survivors

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In the UK, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that after CRC treatment, patients should be offered comprehensive advice on managing the effects of treatment on their bowel function, including information on diet as nutritional education can be effective in improving the overall survival, quality of life and nutrition of CRC survivors. This is especially important for CRC survivors as their treatment may include partial resection or temporary or permanent stoma. 

The present study aimed to use a previously developed tool, The NIHR patient Experience Survey, to investigate the quality of dietary advice in patients living with and beyond CRC in the UK.

A team of researchers from the University of Sheffield assessed 75 colorectal cancer survivors recruited through social media and bowel cancer support groups in the UK. The survey consisted of open‐ended and closed questions that aimed to explore the nutritional needs, nutritional advice given and other sources of information accessed by colorectal cancer survivors.

More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of the patients who took part in the national survey said they did not receive any nutritional advice or support from their healthcare team throughout diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment.

The most common reported nutritional problems were diarrhoea (73.3%), uncertainty as to what to eat (70.7%), appetite loss (61.3%), and changes to taste and smell (58.7%). The free‐text responses suggested that participants experienced adverse reactions to foods that were previously enjoyed and tolerated but that now caused ‘bowel problems’. They emphasised the physical issues with their bowel: stomach cramps, lack of control and chronic diarrhoea. 

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