Many breast cancer awareness events include information about (even focus on) the benefits of healthy eating for prevention, during treatment, and also during survivorship. However, cancer centers are filled with hundreds if not thousands of patients with other cancer diagnoses who also have needs for timely, accurate, and individualized nutrition information and support from Registered Dietitians (RDs) to improve tolerance to therapy, quality of life, and health and wellness after treatments are completed.
Unfortunately, many cancer centers around the country still do not provide the beneficial expertise from oncology RDs as a pro-active component of their (so-called) comprehensive cancer care. However, here is an informative article about a cancer center in Massachusetts that has found ways to include oncology RDs as members of their professional oncology staff. Reasons for not including nutritional oncology care provided by RDs, many of whom have received the advanced certification of an oncology nutrition specialty (CSO), from the point of diagnosis forward through recovery are now old, tired, and are simply worn-out excuses.
I learned to ask ahead of time if the cancer center inviting me to speak had an RD as a member of the oncology team (not just simply "available"). It was always slightly awkward to be speaking in the situations where the cancer center had no professional nutritional expertise or support. However, I always did my best to be an ambassador and advocate for the expansion of the care offered by that cancer center to include nutritional support from oncology dietitians. Time after time, I received feedback that after listening to my presentations (and more importantly, the never-ending questions afterward), administrators in the audience stated that they had no idea how important nutrition was to their patients, and best of all, at least a few centers where I spoke hired their first RD or even expanded the position(s) afterward.
My hat is off to this center (Hudner Oncology Center at St. Anne’s Hospital and the Regional Cancer Care Center in Dartmouth, MA) and the RDs on their staff who are dedicated to providing beneficial nutritional care to the patients receiving treatments at this cancer center. May they serve as inspiration to those centers around the country who are still not out of the starting block. It can be done, and your patients will be the beneficiaries and thank you!
"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"
Diana Dyer, MS, RD