TheONC community editor Stephanie Wiseman took a trip to Duke University to sit down with some of the members of the radiation oncology team to discuss patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer.
Many of you may have viewed our first video with the oncology nurse Betty Eckert. Our Duke video series continues as Stephanie interviews the clinical nutrition specialist Brandey Terruso, RD, CSO, LDN.
Brandey shares her expertise regarding the nutritional needs and challenges that head and neck cancer patients face on a daily basis within the radiation oncology department at Duke's Comprehensive Cancer Center. She also expresses the importance of continuity care, because she can offer nutritional support and education for these patients on an ongoing basis. This in turn may help prevent malnutrition and the need for gastric tube placement.
Head and neck cancer treatment can be quite harsh, leading to many side effects. Brandey explains that her patients may experience symptoms such as:
- Mucositis (causing painful swallowing and chewing difficulty)
- Thick oral mucus
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
Brandey works closely with the radiation cancer team, especially the oncology nurses, to identify issues among the head and neck cancer patients. Consulting with patients early on may help minimize nutritional deficits.
If Brandey and her team cannot help a patient sustain adequate nutrition with regular oral intake, gastric tube placement may be necessary. If this is the case, Brandey will consult and provide education for the patient and the home healthcare specialist about which feeding product the patient will require based on specific nutritional needs. She will also advise on dosing (or how much the patient should receive), in addition to water supplementation with the feeding product.
Brandey's work provides a great example of why it is so important to have a multidisciplinary team involved with cancer care. She is very knowledgeable in her field, and she may help keep patients from experiencing severe malnutrition.
For more information, please visit the Duke Cancer Institute's Head and Neck Cancer Tests and Treatments page.