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This article is the author's final published version in Cancer Control : Journal of the Moffitt Cancer Center, Volume 30, January 2023, Pages 10732748231208316.

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2023


BACKGROUND: This study explored perceptions of barriers and facilitators to healthful dietary behaviors among patients with gastrointestinal (GI) cancer and their caregivers, including caregiver preparedness, patient and caregiver self-efficacy for symptom management, and other environmental, social, and familial factors that may serve as barriers and facilitators to healthful eating.

METHODS: Using a concurrent mixed methods cross-sectional study design, individuals with GI cancer receiving outpatient chemotherapy and their caregivers completed surveys, dietary assessments, and interviews. Caregiving preparedness, self-efficacy for symptom management, and dietary intake were assessed using validated instruments. Dietary quality was measured using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2020. In-depth interviews explored barriers and facilitators to healthful eating, symptom management, and caregiver preparedness.

RESULTS: Twenty-seven patient-caregiver dyads completed study activities (N = 54). Dietary quality scores ranged from 26 to 81, with a median score of 43 for patients and 42 for caregivers. Thematic analysis identified three barriers to healthful eating: caregiver self-efficacy and preparedness, caregiver needs are neglected, and nutrition as a source of conflict. Overall self-efficacy scores (Mdn, [IQR]) were 69.1 (45.0) for caregivers and 75.6 (34.1) for patients. Caregiver preparedness score was 2.99 ± .87; problem areas were identified, including addressing emotional needs, fluctuating eating habits, advanced disease progression and making care activities pleasant. Despite the challenges, three main facilitators were identified: increased awareness and value of nutrition, influential others, and positive coping.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest the importance of developing interventions that increase nutrition-related preparedness among caregivers and self-efficacy for managing treatment side effects. Future research should continue to explore the relationship between positive coping and dietary behaviors. While engaging patients and caregivers together during dietary interventions is a promising modality, strategies for maintaining personal nutrition-related goals when facing contrasting priorities between patients and caregivers should be addressed.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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