Exploring nutrition knowledge, practice and education needs in regards to cancer malnutrition in the primary care and community sector

Ms Jane  Stewart1, Ms B Steer1, Ms Jenelle Loeliger1

1Peter Maccallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, Australia


Cancer malnutrition remains a prevalent issue across a patient’s continuum of care and 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), general practice nurses (GPNs) and dietitians in acute cancer services, community health services/rehabilitation and private practice were invited to complete surveys.

The survey was completed by 152 dietitians, 22 GPs and 10 GPNs. One-third of acute oncology dietitians rarely/never refer their cancer patients to primary care/community dietitians and 2/3 never/rarely provide a discharge summary to a patients’ GP. GPs/GPNs and dietitians working in primary care/community settings (78%, 63% respectively) believe patients with cancer malnutrition are going unrecognised in their service. Only ¼ community health services complete nutrition risk screening routinely on initial presentation and only 35% of GPs/GPNs very often/always weigh their cancer patients. GPs/GPNs (88%) believe they should have primary responsibility for screening patients for malnutrition and 94% see benefit in having access to a malnutrition screening tool. Additional education and resources on cancer malnutrition are wanted by all surveyed clinicians.

Significance of the findings to allied health:
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.


Jenelle Loeliger is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and currently the Interim Director of Allied Health at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. She is passionate about implementing evidence based practice into usual care and ensuring patients with cancer have access to high quality allied health services. Jenelle conducts projects/research across various areas within cancer and provides state-wide leadership to the Victorian Cancer Malnutrition Collaborative program of work which helps to reduce the burden of malnutrition on patients with cancer.