A qualitative study exploring nutrition-related calls to our 13 11 20 Cancer Information and Support line suggests there are more to these calls than simple requests about diet and nutrition. Callers often had pressing unmet informational, practical and emotional needs that warranted prioritising above advice on diet and nutrition related queries.
Evidence suggests that around one third of cancers are preventable, with diet and lifestyle considered as modifiable risk factors. Cancer Council's 13 11 20 Information and Support line often receives calls from patients and families about how they are able to utilise diet as a mechanism for symptom management, cancer prevention and cancer recovery. Limited research has been done to examine the true nature of these diet-related questions and the role of a cancer nurse in responding.
This study examined qualitative data from de-identified transcribed phone calls categorised as relating to nutrition, diet and weight management. Thematic analysis revealed that while patients and families had general questions about diet and cancer, in many cases the topic was used as a starting point for people to make contact. While talking with a cancer nurse, callers often identified other pressing unmet informational, practical and emotional needs.
The findings also suggest a need for cancer nurses to ‘listen between the lines' in order to identify when important issues were potentially being masked by more straightforward questions. When these underlying issues were addressed, this often dissipated the caller's dietary advice needs concurrently.
This study has recently been accepted for publication in the Australian Journal of Cancer Nursing and will appear in the May 2017 edition.