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Experts urge immediate action to make nutritional care mandatory in cancer care: New evidence supports need for greater emphasis on preventing weight and muscle loss following cancer diagnosis.


13 Sep 2021


Health & Consumers

Today at a joint policy seminar, renowned European experts from ESPEN, ECPC, ECO and EFAD stressed the vital importance of nutrition for treatment and quality of life of patients with cancer. They called upon stakeholders to join forces to implement optimal nutritional care for all cancer patients and throughout their cancer journey, launching 7 actionable recommendations.

A poor nutritional status can worsen treatment outcomes, cause patients to suffer avoidable complications and reduce their quality of life. It is estimated that the deaths of 10-20% of cancer patients can be attributed to malnutrition rather than to the malignancy itself. Yet, in studies, only 30%-60% of patients found to be at risk of malnutrition received nutritional support. The cost of malnutrition in cancer care in the EU amount to €17B per year.

During the seminar, experts addressed barriers and proposed solutions to the delivery of optimal nutritional care for all throughout the cancer journey.

ESPEN representative Alessandro Laviano, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine in Rome, showed that early nutrition support can enhance the efficacy of anti-cancer treatments and improve outcomes, including survival and quality of life. Highlighting the natural tendency for oncologists to focus on treating the disease rather than the patient with the disease, Professor Laviano presented a compelling case for making nutritional care a standard component of cancer care, with screening for nutritional changes at every hospital visit to allow prompt intervention at the first sign of problems.  “Nutritional care is a vital ‘supportive’ treatment for cancer, which ensures that patients are in the best possible condition to benefit from advances in oncology treatments’.

Nicole Erickson, member of the EFAD oncology expert advisory board, highlighted the fact that many patients with serious nutritional problems do not have access to dietetic advice: ‘and therefore multidisciplinary teams should include a specialised oncology dietitian’.

Matti Aapro, president of the European Cancer Organisation, demonstrated that while science is clear about the importance of nutrition for patients with cancer, it is pivotal to convince oncologists and collaboratively address decision-makers.

‘The right to high-quality cancer care must include optimal nutritional care’, said Ken Mastris, President of the European Cancer Patient’s Coalition, ‘whereas at present, many patients across Europe cannot get access to the care or the nutritional support they need due to underfunding of dietetic services, or lack of reimbursement of vital nutritional care.  The issues of access must be addressed urgently and aligned with policy commitments for equitable, high-quality cancer care’.

At the seminar, a joint Call to Action with 7 actionable recommendations was launched, designed to ensure the protection of the nutritional status of patients with cancer across Europe. The recommendations can be used as a template for local activities and are available for download at




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