An evaluation of the prevalence of malnutrition in cancer patients attending the outpatient oncology clinic


Professor Stephen J Clarke, Department of Medicine, Concord Hospital, NSW 2139, Australia. Email:


Background:  The aim of the study was to assess the nutritional status of cancer patients attending the medical oncology outpatient setting for the first time.

Methods:  One-hundred and forty-one patients (87 males, 54 females) were assessed by a dietitian, using the nutrition assessment tool, the Patient-Generated Subjective Global Assessment (PG-SGA). Tumor types included colorectal, head and neck, lung, pancreatic, gastric or esophageal cancer. No patient had previously received chemotherapy.

Results:  Forty-eight (34%) patients were well nourished (PG-SGA rating A), 79 (56%) patients were at risk of malnutrition (B), and 14 (10%) patients were malnourished (C). The median PG-SGA score was 7. There were no significant differences in nutritional status between those > 65 years and those ≤ 65 years. The highest PG-SGA scores (indicating a greater nutritional risk) were found in patients with gastric, pancreatic and oesophageal cancers. There were significant differences found between certain cancer groups using the PG-SGA, however, these were not detected using other more commonly used criteria, such as the body mass index (BMI).

Conclusion:  This study confirms that the majority of new patients with cancer presenting to a medical oncologist are at risk of malnutrition or malnourished. It calls for better screening, and adequate nutrition intervention in patients who are about to be considered for systemic treatment.