Health professionals learn more about nutrition for cancer survivors

Health professionals found out more about the right nutrition and lifestyle advice to give cancer survivors at a masterclass jointly organised by Bournemouth University and Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

Health professionals attended a masterclass jointly organised by Bournemouth University and Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

Evidence increasingly shows the importance of a good diet and gentle exercise for cancer survivors – with improved survival rates, physical and psychological wellbeing and a reduced risk of cancer recurring.

The free Nutrition for Survivors Beyond Cancer masterclass on Thursday gave professionals involved in the care of cancer survivors information on current evidence and key advice to give patients.

It was jointly organised by Dr Jane Murphy, framework lead for nutrition and exercise science in BU’s School of Health and Social Care, and Grainne Ford, dietetic manager at Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

Jane said: “The purpose of the masterclass is to think about how we can improve the nutritional knowledge of people working on the frontline, who care for people who have had cancer and are living beyond cancer, and to think about how we can improve their nutritional skills.

“We also want to signpost them to important nutritional resources and a key evidence base that will support and improve their practice.”

The masterclass took place at the Village Hotel, next to Royal Bournemouth Hospital, and a diverse range of health professionals attended – from hospital managers to fitness instructors and cancer support group representatives.

Talks included the importance of gentle exercise, the evidence linking nutrition and cancer and how to broach the subject of the need to lose weight with cancer survivors.

There were also interactive workshops, where health professionals were given cancer survivor case studies and had to come up with a nutrition and lifestyle plan for them.

Grainne said that people often gained weight following cancer treatment – particularly for breast cancer – and it was important to raise the benefits of being a healthy weight sensitively once people were in remission.

“There is a lot more emerging evidence to show that diet and lifestyle can really help cancer survivors and it’s an area that patients can take into their own hands and feel empowered by doing something about the nutrition side of their life.”

She added: “The feedback that we have had shows a real need for this kind of class to help people understand what the current evidence is and what the recommendations are, so that they can take those practical things back to their patients and help them on their journey.”

Advice for cancer survivors includes limiting the amount of red and processed meat they eat, avoiding sugary drinks and alcohol and being active for at least 30 minutes a day.

The masterclass also helped to dispel some of the common myths about cancer and nutrition – such as the fact that dietary supplements alone do not benefit cancer survivors, and large doses are actually negatively associated with cancer recurrence.

Mary Milne, who works with breast cancer patients and is currently doing a PhD into cancer survivorship, was one of those who attended the masterclass.

She said: “Nutrition often comes up and we tend to find that patients are often informed via the internet – whether it’s right or it’s wrong – so it’s important that health professionals are able to give informed answers to the questions they are asked and to feel comfortable giving that answer.

“The masterclass has been excellent. I think it has been targeted perfectly to the health professionals – and we’ll leave feeling informed and ready to go back and hopefully just provide a better service for cancer survivors.”

A second free masterclass will take place at the Kingston Maurward Conference Centre in Dorchester, on Wednesday 21 November.

It will run from 10am–4pm and you can find more information and book online here