The Oncology Care Team

Oncology Dietitians



Cancer and related comorbidities affect nutritional status and poor nutritional status impairs recovery and quality of life.

Weight loss and malnutrition are not uncommon in persons living with cancer. The incidence and extent of nutritional compromise depends on many factors such as: tumour type, location, grade and stage as well as treatment and individual factors.  Nutritional status plays a role in the ability to undergo and withstand treatment, complications, length of hospitalization, discharge planning, survival and quality of life.[2]

Dietitians are health professionals with a Bachelor’s degree focusing on food science and nutrition, and a practicum in a hospital or community setting. Many dietitians have graduate degrees as well.  Dietitians are members of a provincially regulated profession that has Public Protection as their mandate. Dietitians are accountable for their conduct and the care they provide.[1]

In cancer care dietitians play a role at every stage in cancer, from prevention to palliation. Dietitians are involved with:

  • primary prevention

  • cancer treatment

  • secondary prevention

  • cancer recurrence

  • palliative/end of life care

"The key to providing effective oncology nutrition care is anticipating and diagnosing deterioration in nutritional status, and then preventing its onset or rectifying it before it reaches clinical significance. " [2]


Nutritional status impacts all aspects of care

Traci Ward, 2005

Dietitians provide leadership in caring for the nutritional status of cancer patients and play an active role in:

  • screening

  • identifying

  • treating

  • monitoring

the nutritional status of patients.

All members of the team can be more aware and involved in the nutritional aspects of cancer care.


When to involve a dietitian

Consult dieticians early for patients experiencing or expected to experience:

  • enteral or parenteral nutrition support,

  • unintentional weight loss

  • wound healing problems

  • gastrointestinal problems. 

  • anorexia

  • dysphagia

  • chewing difficulties

  • mucositis/esophagitis

  • fatigue

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • early satiety

  • constipation or diarrhea that impairs intake

  • thick saliva

  • taste alterations


Dietitians play a role at all stages of a cancer diagnosis.


What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?


How can a dietitian help in cancer prevention?


What is the role of a dietitian when a person is initially diagnosed with cancer?


What expertise can a dietitian offer to a person who is in a palliative phase of cancer?


Dietetic Resources

Karen Neff, 2005

the College of Dietitians of Ontario

Dietitians of Canada

Canadian Oncology Nutrition Standards of Practice

Code of Ethics For The Dietetic Profession In Canada


















1. Dietitians of Canada accessed February 5, 2008.

2. Canadian Oncology Nutrition Standards of Practice. 2004 Dietitians of Canada. accessed february 5, 2008.

All references for this section