Q3. How should patients be screened and referred to the dietitian?
The Evidence Based Practice Guidelines for Nutritional Management of Malnutrition in Adult Patients Across the Continuum of Care state that validated tools appropriate for your patient population should be used for screening . The Malnutrition Screening Tool (MST) has been validated for use in the cancer population and is recommended in the Evidence Based Practice Guidelines for Nutritional Management of Patients Receiving Radiation Therapy  and the Evidence Based Practice Guidelines for the Nutritional Management of Cancer Cachexia . The tool consists of two questions relating to weight history and appetite, and is quick and simple to use. It can be administered by clinical staff such as nursing, radiation therapists, or cancer care coordinators, or by non-clinical staff such as administration support officers. It is a more efficient use of resources to provide training to other staff on screening so that dietetic resources can be targeted to the assessment and implementation of a nutrition care plan of those patients identified at risk .
There is limited good quality evidence for screening tools specifically for patients with head and neck cancer. Two level II studies, one positive quality  and one negative quality , identified predictive factors for malnutrition during radiotherapy which could be used to assist with screening and referral criteria. A level III-2, neutral quality paper  describes a validated tool to assess and screen for symptoms to target management interventions.
An older study  (level IV neutral quality) also described a tool to assess for symptoms to determine nutritional risk, which is similar to the nutrition assessment tool – the scored Patient-Generated Subjective Global Assessment (PG-SGA) . One level IV, positive quality study  identified several biochemical factors which could be associated with identifying malnourished patients at baseline. Four other level IV studies of lower quality (neutral or negative quality) also identify factors which could be used to predict malnutrition at baseline . There is some evidence of predictive validity of single parameters such as C-reactive protein, prealbumin, haemoglobin and selenium in identifying malnutrition in patients with head and neck cancer, however, screening tools with at least two parameters are recommended as they have higher sensitivity and specificity of predicting nutritional status .
There are currently no validated tools to assist in the identification of patients who are predicted to have future high nutritional risk. Evidenced based suggestions for patient groups to consider are discussed in Q15 and Q25.
|Use a validated nutrition screening tool (e.g. Malnutrition Screening Tool) for identifying malnutrition risk in cancer patients.||B|
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