Patients who have survived cancer want clear advice from their nurses and doctors about what they should eat, according to a small study by UK researchers.
They found that patients did know eating a balanced diet was important, but they would like more advice from health workers on how to go about it.
“The next step in this research will need to explore how we can support doctors and nurses”
Most patients in the study said they did not receive advice from their healthcare professionals about their diet and were keen to find out more.
They said they received information about a healthy diet from charities, online and from the news but were confused about what makes up a balanced diet.
The Cancer Research UK-funded study, published today in the European Journal of Cancer Care, involved 19 cancer survivors who were no longer receiving treatment.
Participants felt a healthy balanced diet was more important than eating specific foods but failed to recognise foods like nuts, tomatoes and green vegetables as healthy, and sugar, white flour and processed food as unhealthy.
Most said they tried to make healthy eating changes after they were diagnosed with their disease.
Although cancer was often a trigger for making a big lifestyle change, many said they ate healthily because it was good for overall health rather than eating healthily to prevent cancer returning.
Lead study author Dr Rebecca Beeken, from University College London, said: “There’s a lot of information online about what foods are healthy but advice can be conflicting.
“This study shows that patients would like diet advice from the people treating them and we think patients would benefit from clear advice from the people caring for them,” she said.
“The next step in this research will need to explore how we can support doctors and nurses to provide this information for their patients,” said Dr Beeken.
Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, added: “There’s a lot of misleading information on the internet about what is and isn’t a healthy diet in relation to cancer.
“This study shows that there’s a potential “teachable moment” after cancer treatment when patients are receptive to getting good information about healthy eating,” he said. “Getting information at this point will guide them away from seeking out unproven approaches.”