Uniting voices and taking action for World Cancer Day 2023!

At Nutricia, we believe that every patient journey is unique, and we know the importance of appropriate nutritional support at each step of the way. Cancer and its treatment can change the way food tastes, the way you eat, how well your body absorbs and uses nutrients. As a result, up to 65% of cancer patients will be affected by malnutrition at some point during their disease1. Weight loss is common and adversely impacts treatment, recovery, and patient outcomes. Good nutrition is an essential part of your overall care. It helps keep your body strong throughout treatment and into recovery.

Learn more on the importance of nutrition along your journey and how to recognise the signs and symptoms of malnutrition.

Better nutrition for more good days

This year we bring you a story with a deep dive with cancer patients into their “good” and “bad” days, particularly in relation to weight, food intake, and medical nutrition. Nutricia brings to life the voices of these patients who, although different from each other, share many common feelings and experiences.

How can you take action? Check for signs and symptoms!

Weight loss is one of the most common side effects of cancer. Between 30% and 80% of patients may lose weight at some point during their disease2. There are lots of reasons why you could lose weight when going through cancer. Before and especially during treatment, you may not feel like eating or drinking because of a lack of appetite, mouth ulcers, nausea, vomiting, or taste changes. Taste and smell changes are extremely common, affecting up to 70% of people with cancer during treatment3. These taste and smell changes matter because they interfere with enjoyment of eating and drinking and cause you to eat and drink less than normal – meaning that your body doesn’t get all the nutrition it needs4,5. Taste changes lead to a 20–25% reduction in calories ingested each day, resulting in weight loss4,5. Without adequate nutrition, your body will be less able to cope with both the cancer and its treatment, reducing the chance of a successful treatment6.

If you are worried about unexplained weight loss or a poor appetite, either for yourself or for someone you care for, here are some things you can do: 

Are you skipping meals?
Struggling to eat or drink?
Are you losing weight?
Speak to your health care professionals!

What can you do?

  • Regularly check and keep track of your weight
  • Calculate your BMI Managing Malnutrition: All Resources
  • Fill out this Screening tool or Checklist which you can help you check whether you are a healthy weight, and whether you are at risk of becoming malnourished.
  • Check out these leaflets for more tips and tricks!
  • Try small, frequent meals or snacks instead (say every 2 hours) and make the most of when you feel hungry
  • Eating a wide variety of foods gives us the nutrients we need including vitamins and minerals
  • Sometimes it can be difficult to remember what you’ve eaten or how you were feeling. To help you keep track of good days and not so good days try using the wellbeing diary
  • Make a note of whether you’ve been able to keep up your usual activities.

Start the conversation!​

You don’t need to wait to be asked about your diet: It’s ok for you to start the conversation about eating and drinking. Speak with your doctor, nurse, or dietitian if you notice any of the above symptoms or side effects or if you notice that you are losing weight, skipping meals or are unable to eat as much as you could before your diagnosis. It’s important to raise any concerns that you have regarding nutrition. Multi-disciplinary teams, including healthcare professionals from different specialties, are key and can support you during this journey. 

There are more ways to take action! 

Helpful brochures have been created by the World Cancer Day organization led by the UICC. Take a look at the WCD website to learn more and download these brochures.

  1. Hebuterne et al. JPEN. 2014;38(2):196-204
  2. Ryan et al. Proc Nutr Soc. 2016;75(2):199-211.
  3. Spotten LE, Corish CA, Lorton CM, et al. Subjective and objective taste and smell changes in cancer. Ann Oncol. 2017;28:969-84.
  4. Brisbois TD, de Kock IH, Watanabe SM, et al. Characterization of chemosensory alterations in advanced cancer reveals specific chemosensory phenotypes impacting dietary intake and quality of life. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2011;41:673-83.  
  5. Ruo Redda MG, Allis S. Radiotherapy-induced taste impairment. Cancer Treat Rev. 2006;32:541-7.
  6. Ryan AM, Prado CM, Sullivan ES, et al: Effects of weight loss and sarcopenia on response to chemotherapy, quality of life, and survival. Nutr. 2019; 67-68: 110539.
  7. Cancer. (2019, July 12). https://www.who.int/health-topics/cancer

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