By Isabelle Manneh-Vangramberen and Lydia Makaroff, European Cancer Patient Coalition.
How can we get more people talking about nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment?
At the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC), we focus on promoting the well-being of people with cancer.
The management of nutrition and physical activity is becoming more important for people with cancer as survival rates and quality of life increase. They are crucial components of cancer treatment and rehabilitation as they help patients better cope with illness. However, given the focus on cancer and its cure, nutrition and physical activity are often neglected. This can leave patients and their families with the need for practical guidance on how to eat better and how best to exercise.
During Nutrition and Physical Activity Awareness Month in March, ECPC worked to increase awareness of the importance of nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment. The initiative featured a pan-European awareness-raising campaign, "#RecipeAgainstCancer", which involved national Members of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament, and other health stakeholders.
The support of European and national policymakers is essential if we are to implement guidelines for nutrition and physical activity for cancer patients that are underpinned by public policy (e.g. nutrition screening as a mandatory part of medical care).
We also created the "Nutrition and Physical Activity Awareness Month Toolkit" which contains essential nutrition and physical activity advice for patients and provides guidance to our members on how to join and support the campaign nationally.
And plenty is happening at a national level. For instance, in Italy, a ‘Cancer Patients' Bill of Rights for Appropriate and Prompt Nutritional Support’ has been introduced, while in Germany, a push has begun to define simple measures as part of the government’s cancer program, such as the regular weighing of people with cancer by their doctor.
The main conclusion that we took away from our campaign was that there is genuine interest in this topic, as uptake of our communications material, from social media to our booklets, went beyond expectations. Indeed, many patient organisations and other stakeholders have since contacted us and expressed interest in working with us in 2019 to further localise and disseminate the "Living Well During Cancer Treatment" booklet across Europe. This will bring the message around the importance of nutrition and physical activity to a wider audience – and ultimately improve the lives of patients in our communities, which is our mission.
The “Living Well During Cancer Treatment” booklet, a patient guide on the impact of nutrition and physical activity on cancer treatment and rehabilitation, can be downloaded at: http://www.ecpc.org/edu/nutrition