Background: Lifestyle change following a cancer diagnosis is associated with improved outcomes, raising the question of how best to provide cancer patients with lifestyle advice. A doctor’s recommendation can have a motivational effect, but little is known about the knowledge and practices of oncology health professionals.
Aim: To examine awareness of lifestyle guidelines for cancer patients, and current practices with regard to lifestyle advice, among oncology health professionals in the UK.
Methods: The online survey included questions on knowledge (“Are you familiar with any guidelines specifically for cancer patients for any of the following lifestyle topics?” and advice “Do you give your patients advice on any of the following lifestyle topics?” with responses physical activity/diet/weight management/smoking/drinking alcohol. Analyses examined whether 1) awareness of lifestyle guidelines predicted the provision of lifestyle, 2) profession, age, gender and region were associated with the provision of advice.
Results: 361 respondents completed the relevant questions. Almost two thirds (63%) were aware of any lifestyle guidelines for cancer patients. Awareness was highest for physical activity guidelines (51%) and lowest for weight management guidelines (33%). Provision of lifestyle advice was highest for diet (72%) and lowest for alcohol (39%). Over one in 10 (13%) did not give advice on any lifestyle topic. Awareness of lifestyle guidelines did not predict the provision of lifestyle advice. Surgeons were less likely to provide advice (OR:0.21(0.05-0.91),p<.05) but there were no other differences.
Conclusions: Most health professionals reported giving lifestyle advice, higher than in previous studies, and in contrast to patient reports. Provision of advice was lower among surgeons, who may benefit from improved education on the importance of lifestyle for cancer patients and the impact that their recommendation may have. Although lack of awareness of guidelines was not a barrier to providing advice, this indicates an opportunity for professional education.