While many survivors are highly motivated to seek information about dietary changes to improve their long-term health, most are still burdened by suboptimal dietary intake. Our recent study has demonstrated that cancer survivors in the United States have poor adherence to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and their intake patterns are worse than the general population for dietary fiber and empty calories. This gap between a desire for improved health and poor dietary habits highlights the strong need for identifying their nutritional needs and providing adequate nutrition support to this vulnerable population.
It is important to note that cancer survivors may experience specific barriers for adhering to dietary guidelines. Cancer diagnosis and treatment may pose a number of issues that can impact survivors’ eating patterns long-term. Moreover, nutrition is not routinely integrated into cancer care of many oncology clinics around the country. Cancer survivors and their families often seek nutrition advice from various sources about the foods they should eat or avoid, and this advice can be inconsistent and not evidence-based. We still know very little, especially from patients’ perspective, about their nutritional needs, barriers, and sources of nutrition support they receive.
We aim to build partnerships with cancer survivors, family members/caregivers, and representatives from advocacy groups, oncology care providers, and policy makers, and engage them in learning about the complex web of factors that influence the dietary intake patterns of cancer survivors. We plan to engage both local and online communities of cancer survivors because the use of social media networking sites (Facebook and Twitter) is becoming a highly impactful approach to reach cancer survivors that are geographically dispersed in the community. In a structured and systematic way, we will facilitate a process where partnership members work together to create a repository of shared information about the nutritional needs and barriers in cancer survivors, and discuss research questions and designs for providing effective nutrition support to cancer survivors in the community.