Malnutrition Prevalence in regional oncology patients

Mrs Wendy Swan1

1GV Health, Shepparton, Australia


Cancer Malnutrition is often unrecognised and therefore untreated, increasing length of hospital stay, reducing treatment tolerance, impacting wound healing, increasing complications and contributing to higher mortality rates.  Goulburn Valley Health dietitians have participated in four  state-wide Malnutrition in Victorian Cancer Services prevalence studies (2012 – 2018).

Aim: To assess prevalence of malnutrition risk and malnutrition status in admitted oncology and chemotherapy day patients.

Method:  Dietetic screening and assessment of malnutrition prevalence in cancer patients over a common data collection period.  The validated tool (pgSGA) was used for assessment of malnutrition in Phase 1 and II, IDC Malnutrition criteria was used in Phases III and IV.

Results: Similar patient numbers, demographics and tumour streams were recruited in all phases.  Malnutrition risk reduced from 48 percent; Phase I to 33 percent; Phase IV.  Malnutrition prevalence reduced from 43 to 29%.  In Phase I, dietitians provided nutritional care to 47 percent of malnourished patients.  This increased to 73 percent in phase IV.  The majority of patients identified as malnourished in Phase IV were within or above the healthy weight range.

Significance to Allied Health: Dietitians are the key workforce leading malnutrition assessment and nutritional intervention.  Early screening can expedite appropriate nutritional management and improve patient outcomes.  Over time malnutrition risk and prevalence have declined and involvement of dietitians in care of malnourished patients has increased.  There remain a proportion of patients with a healthy weight or above who are not identified by oncology staff as malnourished and hence not referred for dietetic input.


Wendy manages the Nutrition & Dietetics Department at Goulburn Valley Health, a large regional hospital in Northern Victoria.  She is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and holds a Master of Rural Health (University of Melbourne).  Wendy also works as a consultant dietitian providing services to Shepparton Private Hospital, Shepparton Bariatric Surgery Program and Shepparton Retirement Villages.  Her interests include relationships between emotions, food choice and weight management and the nutritional management of eating disorders.