Dietary changes and nutritional support after a pelvic cancer diagnosis: a cross-sectional study.


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Georgios Saltaouras1,Helen Lightowler2,Shelly Coe2,Amanda Horne3,Sara Matthews3,Loryn Caulfield3,Eila Watson4
1Oxford Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Research, Oxford Brookes University,2Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK,3Department of Oncology, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford, UK,4Oxford Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Research, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK



Diet and nutrition is an important aspect of survivorship care that is not routinely addressed. Patients diagnosed with a cancer in the pelvis (anal, bladder, rectal and cancers of the reproductive organs) may benefit from dietary modifications that could improve treatment outcomes and quality of life, and may influence survival. This study aims to explore pelvic cancer survivors’ dietary habits and experiences of nutritional support after diagnosis.


People diagnosed with a pelvic cancer, either undergoing (n=266) or having completed radiotherapy treatment 6-24 months previously (n=405), were invited to participate in a cross-sectional survey. Descriptive and multivariable logistic regression analyses were undertaken. Results are presented for the whole sample, as there were no significant differences between the two groups.


254 (38%) survivors responded; median age 70 years. High overweight and obesity rates (39% and 24%, respectively) and presence of treatment side effects (e.g. bowel changes, appetite issues, fatigue) (82%) were observed. Two thirds of respondents (n=170) reported at least one dietary change since diagnosis. Most notable changes included increased intake of vegetables (33%) and fruit (33%) and reduction of sugary foods (48%) and alcohol (41%). Forty-three percent (n=108) received dietary support from the healthcare team, of which 67% (n=72) felt their needs to be well met. Receipt of support from the healthcare team was the only significant predictor of dietary change (OR 3.63, 95% CI: 1.82-7.23). Dietary support was mainly in the form of leaflets from specialist nurses. Sixty-eight percent (n=171) of respondents would like to receive additional dietary support in relation to cancer.


This study shows that survivors make dietary changes following a diagnosis of pelvic cancer and highlights an increased need and interest for nutrition information and support. Further development of support services in the area of nutrition is warranted.