In looking at the effectiveness of the tool, researchers found 36 per cent of the patients they looked at were malnourished.
"This is a large number of people and it speaks to the importance of using a reliable approach to correctly identify the patients that are top priority from a nutrition standpoint," said Darling, also a scientist at the hospital's Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute. "Having malnutrition is associated with a higher risk of mortality and the chemotherapy is less effective in patients who are malnourished."
Malnutrition is commonly seen in cancer patients because the cancer itself may cause increased metabolic demands, often caused by tumors, reduces appetite and side effects from the cancer treatment can reduce food intake.
Darling said it's important to catch the patients before their nutritional status worsens because after a certain point, severe malnutrition is difficult to reverse.
"We need a tool in place that's easy, quick and effective because otherwise it's difficult to identify which patients need the most help," Darling said. "People often equate malnutrition with a low BMI, but usually the patients' weight is at or above normal range and is no indication of whether they're malnourished. We are more interested in knowing about weight loss sustained over a short period of time and whether the patient is eating enough nourishing food."
|Contact: Kate Taylor|
St. Michael's Hospital