Background and importance Malnutrition is a high risk health complication that occurs with cancer. Deterioration of nutritional status in cancer patients increases morbidity and mortality, decreases the efficacy and tolerance of oncology treatments and decreases quality of life. Patient information and knowledge of their illness, treatment and nutrition allows them to participate in their own care, manage undesirable effects and prevent malnutrition.
Aim and objectives To evaluate the prevalence of malnutrition, and to assess nutritional knowledge and eating habits in cancer patients.
Material and methods This was an observational descriptive study based on a questionnaire, conducted in the unit of oncology at a university hospital centre. Malnutrition was defined as a body mass index (BMI) <18.5 in patients aged <75 years old or <21 in patients aged ≥75 years old.
Results A total of 216 questionnaires were analysed. The extremes of age ranged between 28 and 79 years with an average age of 44 years. Objective evaluation of nutritional status showed that 48% of patients were malnourished. Our population of patients had poor knowledge of the nutritional problems caused by cancer, with a rate of 78%, and 88% did not benefit from nutritional monitoring by a dietitian. The most common causes of the decline in food intake were loss of appetite (84%), taste loss (45%), nausea and swallowing disorders (26%), loss of smell (19%), vomiting (18%) and abdominal pain (15%).
Conclusion and relevance The prevalence of malnutrition was high in patients with cancer, and nutritional care seemed insufficient. An improvement in the information tools on nutrition and cancer available to patients is required.
References and/or acknowledgements No conflict of interest.