Older hospitalised patients with cancer may have a high risk of being malnourished and experiencing symptoms such as no appetite and nausea, according to findings published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

The study included 4,783 patients with cancer who were hospitalised in November 2012 in public hospitals in Brazil. The average age of patients was 56.7 years.

The overall prevalence of malnutrition was 45%, with a higher prevalence in individuals aged 65 years and older (55%) and a lower prevalence in those aged 50 years and younger (36%).

According to results from a questionnaire that assessed nourishment, patients with a high score—indicating a critical need to improve nutrition—had a higher prevalence of nutrition impact symptoms, with no appetite being the most prevalent (58.1%), followed by nausea (38.3%), dry mouth (37.1%), and vomiting (26.0%).

Older patients should be assessed for malnutrition

The results highlight the need for assessments of malnutrition and underlying risk factors soon after patients with cancer are hospitalised, in order to take steps to ensure that patients have adequate nutrition

Nivaldo de Pinho, National Cancer Institute José Alencar Gomes da Silva, in Rio de Janeiro, said: “With these findings, we can indicate to professionals that intensive nutritional counseling from the age of 50 years and older is needed to prevent and treat symptoms of nutritional impact. This can improve caloric and protein intake and prevent malnutrition and weight loss so common to these patients."