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Malnutrition is associated with poor survival in women receiving radiotherapy for cervical cancer


Objective Cancer patients are at risk of malnutrition, which is associated with poor oncological outcomes. The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of malnutrition before, during, and after radiotherapy in locally advanced cervical cancer patients. In addition, we evaluated the impact of malnutrition on survival, and whether and when malnourished patients were referred to a dietitian.

Methods This retrospective cohort study included cervical cancer patients who received primary or adjuvant radiotherapy with curative intent between January 2013 and January 2021. Patient and treatment characteristics, including longitudinal data on weight and dietary care, were retrieved from the electronic patient files. Malnutrition was defined by body mass index and weight loss according to the Global Leadership Initiative on Malnutrition (GLIM). Overall survival was estimated using the Kaplan–Meier method. Cox proportional hazard regression analysis was used to estimate hazard ratios for key prognostic factors.

Results A total of 294 patients were included. Median follow-up was 40 months (range 7–101 months). Malnutrition occurred in 44 patients (15%) at baseline, in 132 (45%) during radiotherapy, and in 63 (21%) during follow-up. Referral to a dietician occurred in 45% of the 138 patients who were malnourished before or during radiotherapy. Malnutrition was significantly associated with worse survival after adjusting for age, performance score, diabetes, histology, International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) stage, and nodal stage. The 3 year overall survival in patients with malnutrition was 77% (95% confidence interval (CI) 70% to 85%) and without malnutrition 89% (95% CI 83% to 95%); p=0.001). Independent significant risk factors for worse overall survival were: malnutrition, age ˃52 years, adenocarcinoma, FIGO stage III/IV, and N1 disease.

Conclusion Malnutrition was common in cervical cancer patients treated with radiotherapy and was associated with a shorter overall survival. Further studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of better monitoring of malnutrition and faster and better dietary intervention on survival and quality of life.

  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms
  • Radiotherapy
  • Radiation Oncology

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Research data can be made available on request to the corresponding author, but are not currently freely available online.

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