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Healthcare providers Cancer’s impact on work and strategies Other challenges to eating and nutrition

Other challenges to eating and nutrition

Dr. Christine Maheu, RN, PhD

Dr. Christine Maheu is an Associate Professor in the Ingram School of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. Dr. Maheu is also an Affiliate Scientist at the University Health Network and the University of Toronto. At McGill University, she teaches research methods, supervises graduate students (masters, doctoral, post-doctoral), mentors practicing nurses and students in research, and conducts research in English and French. She has held research awards with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. These awards funded her research in psychosocial oncology, which focuses on developing and testing psychosocial interventions or measurements tools for various cancer populations. Additionally, in partnership with Ipsos Canada and funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, she is co-leading a nationwide survey of the needs of cancer patients for transition care from the end of their treatment to three years after their diagnosis. Dr. Maheu received awards for excellence in nursing research (2013, 2015, 2016) from Ovarian Cancer Canada, the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology, and the Quebec Association of Nurses in Oncology.

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Ms. Rosemary Cashman

Ms. Rosemary Cashman is a nurse practitioner at the BC Cancer Agency and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of British Columbia. Her professional experience includes the care of lymphoma, lung cancer and brain cancer patients. She co-chairs the Patient and Family Advisory Council, which guides the brain tumour care program at the BC Cancer Agency. She has authored book chapters and articles related to the care of brain tumour patients and their families. Ms. Cashman was involved in developing and implementing a rapid-access radiotherapy clinic for the palliative treatment of lung cancer and she continues to work in this clinic.

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Kyla Johnson, Occupational Therapist, Segal Cancer Centre, Jewish General Hospital

Ms. Kyla Johnson, M.Sc.A., originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Kyla Johnson works as an Occupational Therapist at the Segal Cancer Center of the Jewish General Hospital. She holds a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from McGill University. Her goal as a rehabilitation professional in Oncology is to enable people with cancer to be able to do what they want and need to do, in all stages of their cancer experience. Kyla helps develop strategies and accommodations to facilitate a return to meaningful life roles, including work. She is specialized in cancer-related cognitive dysfunction and runs a weekly group teaching strategies to improve daily cognitive functioning. Kyla also leads a volunteer yoga class for young adults with cancer. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.

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Ms. Maureen Parkinson, Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor, M.Ed. C.C.R.C, BC Cancer

Ms. Maureen Parkinson is the province-wide vocational rehabilitation counsellor at the BC Cancer Agency. She has also been vocational rehabilitation counsellor at a public rehabilitation hospital and vocational rehabilitation consultant to insurance companies and the court system. She has instructed and facilitated Service-Canada-funded programs on job searching and career exploration. Ms. Parkinson has a Masters in Counselling Psychology, is a Canadian Certified Rehabilitation Counsellor, and completed the Certified Return to Work Coordinator Program through the National Institute for Disability Management and Research. She has developed return-to-work and job-search seminars for cancer patients and created the guidebook “Cancer and Returning to Work: A Practical Guide for Cancer Patients” as well as on-line articles about returning to work and school. She also co-authored a paper commissioned by the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology, “Cancer and Work: A Canadian Perspective”.

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Cancer survivors can experience challenges, in addition to nausea, that can affect their eating and the nutrition they need to maintain weight.

Professionals who may be members of the patient’s healthcare team can advise about preventing or limiting the effects of other challenges to eating and nutrition. The team may include oncologists, surgeons, nurses, dentists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and dietitians. Some of the concerns they can address are:

  • poor appetite
  • swallowing difficulties
  • changes in taste
  • dry mouth
  • mouth sores and pain
  • removal of teeth before cancer treatment

Vocational implications

Nutritional and eating challenges may cause weight loss, which in turn may cause fatigue, and if accompanied by muscle loss, decreased ability to do physically demanding jobs. Eating may be painful or take a longer than it used to. The patient needs to maintain their calorie intake by eating often, meaning they may need to eat often and regularly at the worksite. Removal of teeth may cause a change in appearance, which may affect confidence when a patient works with the public.

Advice and recipes on eating healthfully and cancer:

Job accommodations

There are several ways that jobs can be modified to accommodate other challenges to eating and nutrition:

Modify work tasks and schedules:

  • Request flexible and/or extended breaks to accommodate the patient’s eating and nutrition needs.
  • Drink nutritional supplements at the workstation throughout the day.

Modify the work environment:

  • Request a quiet, private area to eat if the patient is uncomfortable doing so in front of co-workers.
  • Request storage space for any extra materials or supplies that are required to meet the patient’s nutrition needs.

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