Cancer Caregiver Concerns of Patients' Diet and Weight Management: Practical and Psychosocial Concerns

May 21, 2019

On May 16, 2019 our Research and Training Institute (RTI) presented findings of a study on more than 120 current cancer caregivers at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) 2019 Research Conference: Diet, Obesity, Physical Activity and Cancer. Below is a post from the research team about the significance of their findings for the caregiver community.

Last week the RTI traveled south to Chapel Hill, NC to make our first ever appearance at the annual AICR Research Conference. Here, scientists, clinical investigators, dietitians, nutritionists and policy makers gather each year to discuss new findings on food, nutrition, physical activity and weight management in relation to cancer. Our Research Manager, Kelly Clark, attended and presented a poster on the second day of the conference highlighting research findings from a study on eating and nutrition.

We know that unintentional weight loss can be a common side effect of cancer and its treatment, but both patient and caregiver experiences with managing this weight loss are not well understood. The poster we presented, “Cancer Caregiver Perceptions of Patients’ Unintentional Weight Loss: Practical and Psychosocial Considerations,” examines the psychosocial impact of a cancer patient’s unintentional weight loss on their informal caregiver.

Our results show that almost half of caregivers surveyed report that the patient they care for had experienced unintentional weight loss in the last six months. Of those, over half of caregivers worry about the amount the patient eats and report difficulty preparing food the patient enjoys. Many also believe that the patient’s eating problems interfere with their ability to attend social gatherings and report that they often have to prepare multiple meals at mealtime; one for the patient and another for the rest of their family. We found that concerns about the amount of food the patient is eating are associated with difficulty preparing food for the patient and the belief that nausea and smell sensitivity impede the patient’s ability to eat.

Given these findings, we believe that advocacy organizations can play an integral role in teaching caregivers how to provide food that appeals to patients with eating difficulties. At the Cancer Support Community (CSC), our diet and nutrition webpage has free resources and recipe galleries tailored for both patients undergoing treatment and cancer survivors. The resources and recipes for those currently undergoing treatment are categorized to provide tips for how to cope with specific eating problems caused by cancer and cancer treatment.

Share Your Experience

At the Cancer Support Community, innovative patient- and caregiver-focused research is at the heart of what we do. We can’t accomplish this without insight from those directly impacted by cancer, and that is why we ask patients, survivors, and caregivers of all cancer diagnoses to share their stories by participating in the Cancer Experience Registry® , a free, confidential survey that is open to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer or provides care to someone with cancer.