Altering Diet, Physical Activity in Patients With Cancer History May be Aided by Lifestyle Medicine Clinics

Advanced practice nurses and dieticians are encouraged to empower patients to improve their lifestyles through diet and exercise in a presentation at the Oncology Nursing Society’s 46th Annual Congress.

Patients with a history of cancer may learn more about their health behaviors and improve outcomes if given the chance to participate in a lifestyle medicine clinic with advanced practice nurses and dietitians, according to data presented in a poster at the Oncology Nursing Society’s 46th Annual Congress.

A third of all cancer cases in the United States are linked to diet and lifestyle, and an estimated 70% of all cancer survivors in this country are overweight or obese, according to the presentation. Diet and lifestyle counseling are a component of national guidelines for cancer prevention.

“An oncology advanced practice nurse and dietician-led lifestyle medicine clinic really complements the standard cancer follow-up visit by expanding upon evidence-based health behaviors counseling to empower patients and improve outcomes,” Loren Winters, MSN, ANP-BC, OCN, oncology nurse practitioner at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, said during the presentation. “Oncology nurses within the oncology care team share a key role in providing cancer-specific, evidence-based information and resources to aid in recovery after cancer treatment as well as to promote health behaviors. Typical cancer follow-up visits are time-limited and often do not allow for a comprehensive lifestyle behaviors assessment and counseling.”

With the help of Carol Sullivan, MS, RD, CSO, LDN, senior clinical nutritionist at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Winters and the lifestyle medicine multidisciplinary team at her institution created a program for patients with a history of cancer. The program was predominantly led by an advanced practice oncology nurse and an oncology registered dietician.

Once patients are referred to this program by their cancer team, they underwent consultations focused on education and motivation. These consultations emphasized the importance of a whole food plant-forward diet, restorative sleep, regular physical activity, avoidance of risky substances, stress management and positive social connections. Based on needs, patients had free access to webinars, exercise videos and referrals to other specialists or supportive care programs. All of these visits are now conducted through telehealth platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winters and Sullivan received some insightful feedback on the program including that it had an empowering effect on them and it was specifically tailored to their needs.

“Future directions include shared medical or group visits to improve the patient experience by providing an interactive setting in which patients can learn and inspire each other to adopt lasting health behavior change,” Winters said during her presentation.


Winters L. An Advanced Practice Nurse and Registered Dietician Led Lifestyle Medicine Clinic. Presented at: Oncology Nursing Society 46th Annual Congress. April 20, 22, 27 & 29, 2021. Virtual.