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PURPOSE: Cancer-related malnutrition and sarcopenia have severe negative consequences including reduced survival and reduced ability to complete treatment. This study aimed to determine the awareness, perceptions and practices of Australian oncology clinicians regarding malnutrition and sarcopenia in people with cancer.
METHODS: A national cross-sectional survey of Australian cancer clinicians was undertaken between November 2018 and January 2019. The 30-item online purpose-designed survey was circulated through professional organizations and health services.
RESULTS: The 111 participants represented dietetic (38%), nursing (34%), medical (14%) and other allied health (14%) clinicians. Overall, 86% and 88% clinicians were aware of accepted definitions of malnutrition and sarcopenia, respectively. Perception of responsibility for identification of these conditions varied across participants, although 93% agreed this was a component of their role. However, 21% and 43% of clinicians had limited or no confidence in their ability to identify malnutrition and sarcopenia, respectively. Common barriers to the identification and management of malnutrition were access to the tools or skills required and a lack of services to manage malnourished patients. Common barriers to identification of sarcopenia were lack of confidence and lack of services to manage sarcopenic patients. Enablers for identification and management of malnutrition and sarcopenia were variable; however, training and protocols for management ranked highly.
CONCLUSION: While awareness of the importance of cancer-related malnutrition and sarcopenia are high, participants identified substantial barriers to delivering optimal nutrition care. Guidance at a national level is recommended to strengthen the approach to management of cancer-related malnutrition and sarcopenia.