Nutritional Risk Screening in Cancer Patients: The First Step Toward Better Clinical Outcome

Frontiers in Nutrition. 2021 Apr 7; 8:603936. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.603936. eCollection 2021.
Reber, E., Schönenberger, K. A., Vasiloglou, M. F., & Stanga, Z.


Disease-related malnutrition is highly prevalent among cancer patients, with 40-80% suffering from it during the course of their disease. Malnutrition is associated with numerous negative outcomes such as: longer hospital stays, increased morbidity and mortality rates, delayed wound healing, as well as decreased muscle function, autonomy and quality of life. In cancer patients, malnutrition negatively affects treatment tolerance (including anti-cancer drugs, surgery, chemo- and radiotherapy), increases side effects, causes adverse reactions, treatment interruptions, postoperative complications and higher readmission rates. Conversely, anti-cancer treatments are also known to affect body composition and impair nutritional status. Tailoring early nutritional therapy to patients' needs has been shown to prevent, treat and limit the negative consequences of malnutrition and is likely to improve overall prognosis. As the optimisation of treatment outcomes is top priority and evidence for nutritional therapy is growing, it is increasingly recognized as a significant intervention and an autonomous component of multimodal cancer care. The proactive implementation of nutritional screening and assessment is essential for patients suffering from cancer - given the interaction of clinical, metabolic, pharmacological factors with systemic inflammation; and suppressed appetite with accelerated muscle protein catabolism. At the same time, a nutritional care plan must be established, and adequate individualized nutritional intervention started rapidly. Screening tools for nutritional risk should be validated, standardized, non-invasive, quick and easy-to-use in daily clinical practice. Such tools must be able to identify patients who are already malnourished, as well as those at risk for malnutrition, in order to prevent or treat malnutrition and reduce negative outcomes. This review investigates the predictive value of commonly used screening tools, as well as the sensitivity and specificity of their individual components for improving clinical outcomes in oncologic populations. Healthcare professionals' awareness of malnutrition in cancer patients and the pertinence of early nutritional screening must be raised in order to plan the best possible intervention and follow-up during the patients' ordeal with the disease.

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Reference work for leading, current and selected literature in the field of clinical nutrition

Publications on clinical nutrition have grown steadily in recent years and the scientific evidence has been improved by numerous observational as well as intervention studies. Various umbrella organisations, such as the Swiss Society for Clinical Nutrition (GESKES), the German Society for Nutritional Medicine (DGEM) or the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) publish guidelines on nutrition in various clinical situations at regular intervals. Thus, a large amount of literature is available for evidence-based nutritional medicine.

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List of abbreviations

DGEM German Society for Nutritional Medicine (German Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährungsmedizin)
GESKES  Swiss Society for Clinical Nutrition (German Gesellschaft für klinische Ernährung der Schweiz) 
ESPEN European Society of Clinicl Nutrition and Metabolism