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The majority of patients who suffer from head and neck cancer are malnourished even prior to treatment initiation. In addition, side effects from cancer therapy including change in taste, mucositis, nausea or diarrhea increase patients’ malnutrition. Therefore, early management is crucial to improve nutritional status, prognosis and quality of life of patients.
A literature research was performed in PubMed, Medline and other available databases. The guidelines of the German Society for Nutritional Medicine, the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism and common recommendations of other countries were selected, analyzed and summarized.
Early screening for malnutrition is recommended for all cancer patients. Adequate intake of energy and protein should be ensured which may be achieved by consumption of oral nutritional supplements or enteral nutrition such as tube feeding.
It is important to determine the best course of management to maintain body weight and reduce typical adverse effects of malnutrition to improve quality of life. All patients at any stage of their treatment should receive intensive dietary counseling.