Implementation of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan: integrate nutritional care to maintain the quality of life of cancer patients
As the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan now moves into its implementation phase, MNI calls upon the EU Institutions and Member States to establish nutritional support as part of optimal and patient-centric cancer care by implementing the following recommendations:
1. Screening regularly for malnutrition.
Include a systematic, standardised and harmonised malnutrition screening practice in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.
Stronger EU guidance is required to address persistent inconsistencies in malnutrition screening across Europe. However, malnutrition screening is not addressed in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.
Screening a patient for malnutrition takes only a few minutes. Healthcare professionals can be trained to perform malnutrition screening – using tools3 validated by scientific societies - in a short period of time.
2. Educate the healthcare workforce about nutritional care.
Nutrition training should be extended to undergraduate medical students, general practitioners and oncology nurses.
Healthcare professionals and cancer patients are often unaware of malnutrition and the importance of nutritional care during cancer treatment. Adherence to existing nutritional guidelines is currently inconsistent between EU Member States.
MNI appreciates that the Plan includes actions to educate the healthcare workforce, and we believe that nutritional care as part of disease management should be a core element of healthcare professionals’ training curricula.
To implement this action consistently across the EU, it is necessary to establish harmonised minimum standards for training on nutritional care, building on the work of the clinical nutrition societies.
3. Make multidisciplinary teams an integral part of cancer management.
The inter-specialty training programme should include dieticians and nutritionists in order to develop a truly multidisciplinary cancer workforce. The inclusion of nutrition specialists in these multidisciplinary teams should be mandated in national cancer plans.
Multidisciplinary teams are vital in order to deliver optimal care for cancer patients.
Unfortunately, the reality across the EU is different, with dieticians and/or nutritionists not consistently included in cancer care teams.
Ensuring nutrition specialists are part of such teams will integrate nutritional care into cancer patient pathways, enabling improve responses to treatment. This nutritional assistance will also help cancer patients continue their treatment, reducing the interruption rate.
By implementing these recommendations, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan can establish nutritional support as part of optimal cancer care – leading to fewer complications, improved use of healthcare resources, and better outcomes for cancer patients.
1. Better care through better nutrition: value and effects of medical nutrition - A summary of the evidence base”
2. Freijer, Karen et al. The economic costs of disease related malnutrition. Clinical Nutrition, Volume 32, Issue 1, 136 – 141
3. Arends et al. Cancer cachexia in adult patients: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines. ESMO Open 2021