Cancer-related malnutrition management: A survey among Italian Oncology Units and Patients' Associations

Curr Probl Cancer. 2020 Oct;44(5):100554. doi: 10.1016/j.currproblcancer.2020.100554. Epub 2020 Jan 28.


Attitudes toward cancer-related malnutrition vary considerably among oncologists and nutritional support is often not handled according to the available guidelines. The Italian Association of Medical Oncology (AIOM), Italian Society of Artificial Nutrition and Metabolism (SINPE), Italian Federation of Volunteer-based Cancer Organizations (FAVO), and Fondazione AIOM Working Group conducted a national web-based survey addressed to all Italian Oncology Units referees and Italian Cancer Patients Associations. The aim was to investigate the current management of malnutrition and views on nutritional care among oncologists and patients. One hundred and seventy-one (51.6%) of the 331 registered Italian Oncology Units and 75 (38.5%) of the 195 FAVO local communities participated in the survey. Nutritional assessment and support were integrated into patient care from diagnosis for 35% of Oncology Unit referees and 15% of FAVO associates. According to 42% of oncologists, nutritional assessment was carried out only after patients requested it, while it was not performed at all for 45% of FAVO associates. Almost 60% of patient affiliates were not aware of clinical referrals for home artificial nutrition management. However, for almost all responders, the evaluation of nutritional status was considered crucial in predicting tolerance to anticancer treatment. Although malnutrition was considered a limiting factor in oncology treatments by both oncologists and patients, nutritional care practices still appear largely inappropriate. Attitudes differ between oncologists and patients, the latter reporting a more dissatisfied picture. Improving nutritional care in oncology remains a challenging task.

Keywords: Cancer; Malnutrition; Nutritional care; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control*
  • Malnutrition / psychology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Nutrition Therapy / methods*
  • Oncologists / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prognosis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires