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People who have had cancer want nurses to explain how to eat healthily

New research uncovers need for clear advice on nutrition
Cancer diet

People who have had cancer want nurses to give them clear advice about food and nutrition, according to research published today (Monday 22 August).

Photo: iStock

The study, funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the European Journal of Cancer Care, interviewed 19 people who have had cancer in the UK who were no longer receiving treatment.

Lack of advice

Researchers found that while all knew eating a balanced diet was important, most agreed they had not received advice from healthcare workers on how to achieve it.

Instead they had to search online, where they became lost and confused about the conflicting information at their fingertips.

The study does note, however, that searching online often results in increased fruit and vegetable consumption among people who have had colorectal cancer.

Confusing guidance

Cancer Research UKs head cancer information nurses Martin Ledwick said:

People who have had cancer want nurses to give them clear advice about food and nutrition, according to research published today (Monday 22 August).

Photo: iStock

The study, funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the European Journal of Cancer Care, interviewed 19 people who have had cancer in the UK who were no longer receiving treatment.

Lack of advice

Researchers found that while all knew eating a balanced diet was important, most agreed they had not received advice from healthcare workers on how to achieve it.

Instead they had to search online, where they became lost and confused about the conflicting information at their fingertips.

The study does note, however, that searching online often results in increased fruit and vegetable consumption among people who have had colorectal cancer.

Confusing guidance

Cancer Research UK’s head cancer information nurses Martin Ledwick said: ‘There’s a lot of misleading information on the internet about what is and isn’t a healthy diet in relation to cancer.

‘This study shows that there is a potential ‘teachable moment’ after cancer treatment when patients are receptive to getting good information about healthy eating.

‘Receiving advice at this point will guide them away from seeking out unproven approaches to diet and nutrition.’

Overall health

Although cancer was often a trigger for making a big lifestyle change, many respondents said they tried to eat healthily because it was good for overall health rather than doing it to prevent cancer returning.

They also felt a balanced diet was more important than eating specific foods. However, when asked, they classified nuts, tomatoes and green vegetables as ‘healthy’, while sugar, white flours and processed food were seen as ‘unhealthy’.

The report’s lead author Rebecca Beeken, from University College London, said the next step would be to explore how to support nurses to provide healthy eating advice to patients.


Further information:

What about diet? A qualitative study of cancer survivors views on diet and cancer and their sources of information

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