Reshaping breast care services – a role for dietitians?
Uptake and response to dietary intervention in postmenopausal women newly
diagnosed with breast cancer
University of Southampton, School of Medicine,
Breast cancer survival rates have risen dramatically over recent years with many women expected
to survive their diagnosis and live long and fruitful lives. As a result ‘cancer survivorship’ has
become of interest to health care providers who state that future services must be developed that
better meet the long term health needs and expectations of this group.
To this end, the role of health behaviour change in the secondary prevention of breast cancer is a
popular area of research. To date, however, there are no published investigations into what the
likely uptake in health promotion activities would be; an important consideration when developing
Over a period of six months between April 2007 and September 2007, all eligible newly diagnosed
postmenopausal women with breast cancer from the participating NHS trust were invited to
participate in a clinical trial to assess uptake and response in a group healthy eating programme.
The primary outcome measures were to assess the proportion of women who enrolled on the
healthy eating programme and to identify health behaviours that predicted enrolment. Secondary
outcome measures were to assess the change in diet quality; change in weight and to identify
health behaviours that predicted attendance at classes.
Twenty one percent (21%) of women invited agreed to attend the healthy eating programme and
were subsequently randomly assigned to either the healthy eating programme (n=5) or the usual
care group (n=6).
The results suggest that women newly diagnosed with breast cancer were not interested in
attending healthy eating classes at the time of their diagnosis. However, screening rates fell
significantly short of the target and therefore these results cannot be generalised to all newly
diagnosed postmenopausal women with breast cancer. Further, due to poor recruitment,
secondary outcomes could not be assessed.
In summary, the study was unable to provide information regarding the likely interest and
response to a group health eating programme for newly diagnosed postmenopausal women with
breast cancer. The reasons the study was unable to meet its aims was objectives were twofold;
firstly the study failed to engage both NHS trusts for which approval was granted and secondly,
screening procedures were not carried out as planned in the single remaining NHS trust.
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