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According to the National Cancer Institute, up to 85% of patients with cancer experience malnutrition during their treatment, which can lead to increased treatment toxicities and reduced quality of life. Further, up to 20% of mortality in patients with cancer is attributed to malnutrition.1

Nestlé Health Science's expertise in nutrition for oncology focuses on developing personalized nutrition solutions that help manage cancer-related malnutrition, support the immune system, and improve quality of life for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

About Oncology

Cancer is a complex disease that can arise in any part of the body and can have a wide range of different causes and risk factors. As a result, oncology requires a multidisciplinary approach that brings together specialists from a variety of different fields.

Cancer treatment is often complex and can involve a combination of different therapies, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. Treatment plans must be tailored to the individual patient's needs and may depend on factors such as the type and stage of cancer, the patient's overall health, and their treatment goals. Effective communication and collaboration between healthcare providers are essential to provide the best possible care and achieve the best possible outcomes for patients. Certain types of cancer, including head and neck, lung, and gastrointestinal cancers, can often result in malnutrition due to their impact on a patient's ability to eat and digest food, making additional nutrition support necessary.

Cancer related side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, taste changes, mouth sores, and fatigue. These side effects can lead to weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration, which can compromise the patient's immune system and overall health. Therefore, it is important to develop nutritional strategies to support the patient's nutritional needs during treatment and manage cancer-related side effects.

Nutrition & Oncology

Nutrition plays a crucial role in the management of patients with cancer. Good nutrition is essential for maintaining strength, energy, and overall health, especially during cancer treatment, which can take a toll on the body. Patients with cancer may experience a range of side effects that affect their ability to eat and drink. Dysgeusia, dysphagia, and mucositis are common side effects of cancer treatment that often significantly impact a patient's ability to eat and maintain proper nutrition. In addition, cancer itself can cause weight loss and malnutrition due to the body's increased metabolic demands and altered nutrient utilization.

Inadequate nutrition can lead to weight loss, malnutrition, and weakness, which can make it harder for patients to tolerate cancer treatments and can also increase the risk of complications. Therefore, it is important to develop nutritional strategies to support the patient's nutritional needs during treatment.



One of the key nutritional strategies in the care of a patient with cancer is to achieve adequate calorie and protein intake. Patients with cancer often require more calories and protein than healthy individuals to support their body's increased metabolic demands. Patients with inadequate calorie and protein intake are at higher risk of developing malnutrition, which can impair wound healing, decrease immune function, and lead to treatment-related complications. Therefore, achieving adequate calorie and protein intake is crucial to maintaining patient health and improving treatment outcomes.

Another nutrition strategy in the management of oncology patients is to provide adequate hydration. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery can increase the risk of dehydration, which in turn can cause fatigue and weakness. It is important to encourage patients to drink plenty of fluids and eat hydrating foods to maintain their fluid balance.

In addition, nutritional strategies in the care of oncology patients should focus on promoting a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods contain essential vitamins and minerals that help support the immune system and aid in the healing process.

Overall, nutrition is an essential component of cancer care, and healthcare professionals should work collaboratively with dietitians to develop and implement nutritional strategies that support the patient's nutritional needs and promote overall health and wellbeing.

Support Resources

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Enteral Nutrition Formulas

A patient with cancer may need enteral nutrition provided with a tube feeding formula if they are unable to consume enough nutrients orally to meet their nutritional needs. This may happen if the patient is experiencing severe cancer-related side effects such as difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. In addition, some cancer treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy can cause mouth sores, gastrointestinal damage, or other complications that make it difficult for the patient to eat. 2
Enteral nutrition involves delivering a nutritionally complete formula directly into the patient's stomach or intestines through a feeding tube. The specific tube feeding formula used will depend on the patient's individual needs and should be carefully selected by a healthcare professional.

Oral Nutritional Supplements

Oral nutrition supplements (ONS) can be an effective way to provide patients with the additional nutrients they need to maintain their weight and strength during cancer treatment, if they are unable to meet their nutritional needs through diet alone. ONS are designed to provide additional calories, protein, and other essential nutrients that the patient may not be getting enough of from their diet.

ONS are available in different flavors and caloric concentrations. There are a variety of product options available to suit an individual's needs. These products are intended to be used under medical supervision.

Modular Supplements

Modulars, or modular supplements, are valuable tools in the nutritional management of oncology patients. Modulars play a crucial role in meeting increased protein and calorie requirements, addressing weight loss, muscle wasting, and decreased appetite commonly experienced by oncology patients. Sometimes they may be added to oral nutrition supplements or given via feeding tube to enhance nutritional content and balance, and to help manage specific needs or treatment side effects. Overall, modulars offer a flexible and targeted approach to optimize nutritional intake and improve well-being during cancer treatment.


1. PDQ® Supportive and Palliative Care Editorial Board. PDQ Nutrition in Cancer Care. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated: Jun.22, 2023. Available at: Accessed: July 25, 2023. [PMID: 26389293] 

2. American Cancer Society. (2021). Nutrition for people with cancer.