Perceived Nutritional needs of Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer: A Survey of Dietitians and Patients (#293)
Aim: There is a dearth of literature addressing nutritional issues facing adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer despite the fact that this has been identified by patients as an unmet need.
Methods: 116 AYAs diagnosed during 2004-2011 who had completed treatment were mailed a survey on nutritional needs; 1386 dietitians were emailed a similar survey.
Results: Eligible responses were received from 38 AYAs (33%) and 58 dietitians (4%). 82% of AYAs were interested in information on healthy eating. Despite 60% of dietitians agreeing that it would be valuable to have a dietician work specifically with AYAs, no dietitians provided AYA-specific nutritional interventions and 81% reported that the greatest barriers to providing such services were no dietician being allocated to this age group or lack of funding. 77% were unable to provide services to overweight AYAs during survivorship. Dietitians identified the most important information topic during treatment to be high calorie diet to prevent losing weight, while AYAs were most interested in safe foods to eat during treatment and when neutropenic. Both agreed that information on what foods to eat to maintain a healthy weight was an important topic. Opinions differed between AYAs and dietitians regarding the optimal timing and modality of nutritional information. While AYAs wanted information during treatment, most dietitians favoured information provision on transition to survivorship. Group sessions with peers were favoured by 40% of dietitians vs. 5% of AYAs while 62% of AYAs vs. 26% of dietitians preferred a one-on-one session with a dietitian. Most AYAs preferred information handouts rather than smart phone apps, DVDs or other technology-based resources.
Conclusions: Inadequate access and funding are the primary barriers to AYAs receiving dietetic services. Given these scarce resources, the preferred topics, timing, and modalities identified by this study may help to optimise how nutritional information is provided to AYAs with cancer.