Malnutrition remains a prevalent issue for cancer patients across the continuum of care, and commonly leads to increased use of healthcare resources and poor clinical outcomes. Studies have found that malnutrition is under-detected and under-treated in primary care. This study aimed to investigate current nutrition knowledge, practice and education needs in the primary care and community sector in regards to cancer malnutrition.
Victorian general practitioners (GPs) and general practice nurses (GPNs), as well as dietitians working in acute cancer services, community rehabilitation, community health services and private practice were invited to complete surveys utilising purposive and convenience sampling.
One hundred and fifty-two dietitians, 22 GPs and 10 GPNs completed the surveys. One-third of acute oncology dietitians rarely or never refer their cancer patients to dietitians in the primary care/community sector and two-thirds never or rarely provide a discharge summary to a patients’ GP. The majority of GPs/GPNs and dietitians working in primary care/community settings (78% and 63% respectively) believe there are patients with cancer malnutrition going unrecognised in their service. Nutrition risk screening is routinely completed on initial presentation in only one-quarter of community health services, and only 35% of GPs/GPNs very often or always weigh their patients with cancer. Eighty-eight percent of GPs/GPNs believe they should have primary responsibility for screening patients for cancer malnutrition and 94% see benefit in having access to a malnutrition screening tool. Additional education and resources on cancer malnutrition are wanted by the majority of GPs/GPNs and dietitians surveyed.
Efforts should be made to improve clinical practice across the continuum of care, in particular for the identification of cancer malnutrition in primary/community care and the transition of nutrition care between sectors. Increased awareness and targeted education resources in regards to cancer malnutrition for the primary care/community sector are required.