Undernutrition and nutritional supplements in Oncology: what do health professionals and caregivers know? - a pilot survey

Catarina Ferreira, Maria Camilo, Rosa Pena, Paula Ravasco*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background & aims: It is acknowledged the interrelationship between nutrition and cancer. Health professionals (HP) and caregivers play a central role in undernutrition prevention/treatment. Our aims were to appraise the knowledge of Oncology HP and cancer caregivers about undernutrition and nutritional supplements (NS) and to assess the relevance given to NS. Methods: 103HP and 394 adult caregivers of cancer patients were randomly selected to the inquiry. Results: HP and caregivers stated that cancer patients were at higher undernutrition risk (95%, p<. 0.001 & 57%, p<. 0.05, respectively) and considered that undernutrition increase cancer severity (85%, p<. 0.002 and 69%, p<. 0.01, respectively). The majority of the caregivers (65%, p<. 0.01) defined undernutrition as an inadequate food intake. Only 35% of caregivers were satisfied with the information received about nutrition. Once undernutrition was diagnosed, 46% physicians and 45% nurses advised the use of NS (. p<. 0.05). Only 14% of caregivers knew cancer NS (p<. 0.001). Reasons for low NS consumption were price (60%, p<. 0.009) and lack of information (57%, p<. 0.01). Conclusions: For the HP involved in this study, cancer is a major risk factor for undernutrition and which in turn worsens the disease. The lack of knowledge about nutrition among caregivers was obvious. Proving information about prevention/consequences of undernutrition is essential. Professionals and caregivers agreed that NS can be an effective strategy when intake is limited, however the cost can be limiting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e46-e49
Journale-SPEN Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Caregivers
  • Health professionals
  • Outcomes
  • Supplements
  • Undernutrition


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