Advancing Care in the Breast Cancer Population Through Nutrition Education, Culinary Skills Instruction, and Relational Connection

November 2019 Vol 10, No 11
Poppy Patterson, BBA, RN
Baylor Scott & White McClinton Cancer Center
Julie Pederson, BSW, RN, OCN, CBCN
Baylor Scott & White McClinton Cancer Center
Sheila Hunt, BA, RN, OCN
Baylor Scott & White McClinton Cancer Center
Carolyn Woods, LD
Baylor Scott & White McClinton Cancer Center

Background: Nutritional support for cancer patients is often a challenge. Many patients are not nutritionally compromised when they start cancer treatment but can quickly become depleted as treatment progresses. An ambulatory community cancer center aimed to provide education and hands-on preparation of highly nutritious food to empower patients to participate in their treatment and well-being.

Objectives: The nutrition/cooking class objective was for participants to gain knowledge about nutritional values, confidence in preparing appealing dishes, support and control in dealing with nutritional challenges, a sense of culinary adventure, and most of all—feel better. Topics included dealing with nausea and taste changes, maintaining a healthy weight/body mass index, and establishing healthy lifestyles.

Methods: A 6-week nutrition class at a professional kitchen was offered to empower patients to take control of their nutritional health. Interesting recipes that create appetizing meals with simple preparation were key objectives. Patients received instruction on important nutritional components—antioxidants, polyphenols, healthy fats, healing proteins, and maintenance of healthy bones and gut biomes. Using new cooking skills, participants constructed and consumed the meal together while listening to a guest speaker, such as a local university nutrition professor, nutritionists, chefs, and a dietitian. An engaged team of oncology nurses facilitated connection and encouraged integration of nutritional knowledge into lifestyles.

Results: Initially, participants filled out a self-assessment of their interests and culinary abilities. After each class, they evaluated the evening’s menu and speaker. Many positive responses mention choosing healthy recipes, trying new foods, and sharing their own adaptations of the recipes. According to the 6 class evaluations, 72 participants responded they would apply the skills learned in class at home and felt confident they could prepare nutritious meals. As a bonus, participants made connections, shared recipes, and began physical activity programs that lasted beyond the 6-week nutrition program.

Conclusions: Our educational design—15 minutes of instruction with printed handouts, 30 minutes of food preparation, then eating during the lecture—was effective. This was achievable, and the attendees responded with requests for more. Group facilitators learned from class the barriers to improve the innovative support group for future attendees.

Note: Abstract previously submitted, accepted, and presented as a poster presentation at Oncology Nursing Society 2018.


  1. American Cancer Society. Coping With Cancer Recurrence. Accessed March 21, 2018.
  2. Breast cancer information and awareness. www.breast 2018. Accessed March 21, 2018.
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