Early nutrition assessment is needed in order to identify and treat malnutrition at an early stage, as this can have a negative impact on treatment outcomes in terms of postoperative complications, chemotherapy efficacy and tolerability. Despite this scientifically knowledge, there is a need for improvement, as cancer-related risk of malnutrition is still too often not assessed and therefore not noticed early enough by health professionals and not treated adequately. The aim is the comparison of findings from a literature review on early identification of cancer-related malnutrition in patients with colorectal cancer with an analyses of daily clinical standard practice.
Thirty-minute structured recorded expert interviews (n 8) are conducted with surgeons and medical oncologists treating colorectal patients in 4 cancer centres from Switzerland and Germany. Data collection ends at the end of May 2022. The questions addressed issues related to 1) process issues 2) knowledge issues 3) collaboration with physiotherapists and 4) personal perceptions/evaluation. The data analysis is based on qualitative content analysis.
The analysis of the first expert interviews conducted shows that the process for early identification of cancer-related malnutrition follows both a structured pathway, which is obligatory for all professional groups involved, and that no structured nutritional screening takes place if the patient himself does not raises nutritional problems. The knowledge base of early identification of malnutrition appears rather scarce in clinical practice. The nutritional guidelines are not generally known. The involvement of physiotherapists to prevent further loss of muscle mass or to promote muscle building through specific physical activity at an early stage of the disease is not well stablished in the cancer centers involved.
According to the interviews, awareness of early identification of malnutrition in patients with colorectal cancer, needs further interdisciplinary improvement. The conversation about the topic itself encouraged further reflection among the experts and challenged especially physiotherapists to be involved earlier in the disease and treatment pathway.
Clinical trial identification
Agnes Glaus (PhD, MSc) Oncology Nursing and Science, Tumor and Breast Centre ZeTuP, CEO Foundation SONK (Foundation for educational activities in Oncology) St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Legal entity responsible for the study
Has not received any funding.
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.