DENVER, Colo--Although oncologists have long been concerned about
cachexia and other nutritional problems in cancer patients, nutritional
oncology, which includes nutritional assessment and intervention
for cancer patients, is just beginning to emerge as a recognized
medical discipline and as an important adjunct to standard cancer
'Rounds out the Armamentarium'
"It rounds out the armamentarium of the oncologist, with
medical, radiation, and surgical oncology," said Faith D.
Ottery, MD, PhD, at the Second Denver Conference on Nutrition
and Cancer. "Quality care, whether curative or palliative,
demands such an integrated approach," she said.
Nutritional oncology includes not only an understanding of the
basic dietary needs of cancer patients, but also of the role of
nutrients in the pathogenesis of cancer and the role of diet in
the prevention and treatment of disease.
Unfortunately, the integration of nutritional thera-py into oncologic
therapies has been hampered by misunderstandings in the oncology
community, said Dr. Ottery, who at the time of the talk was director,
Nutrition Support and Nutritional Oncology Research, Department
of Surgical Oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia.
She said that physicians frequently assume that weight loss is
inevitable and unpreventable in cancer patients. They may view
nutritional support as, at best, an alternative therapy and, at
worst, as an ineffective intervention that can even interfere
with other therapies. They may also assume that nutritional support
adds cost and effort for little return.
Dr. Ottery noted that this kind of thinking, along with a lack
of integrated clinical nutritional education in medical schools,
has led to a certain inertia by the medical community in adopting