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Managing the effects of cancer: developing a nutrition intervention for the side and late effects of different treatment modalities for breast, prostate and bowel cancers (ICANEAT)

Project Description

This is an innovative interdisciplinary project within the important area of supportive care. The student will join a small expert team within the Institute of Applied Health Sciences which has good links with NHS Grampian and UCAN (Urological Cancer Charity). Dr Sara Jane MacLennan is a health psychologist with a long standing interest in the health psychology of cancer. Dr Kirsty Kiezebrink is a senior lecturer with an established track record in public health nutrition. This PhD will investigate how to best to support people managing the side and late effects of cancer and the role of food and eating behaviour in supporting a return to as full a normal life as possible.

The morbidity associated with cancer can be significant ranging from the psychological and social impact of diagnosis and the side effects of treatment to pain and fatigue, malnutrition and the social, psychological and economic costs associated with loss of livelihood (Bradley et al, 2002; Chirikos et al, 2002) and impaired quality of life (Schmidt et al, 2012). The design and delivery of supportive care is the area focused on enabling individuals to make as full a return to normal life as possible from point of diagnosis onwards until end of life (Macmillan Cancer Support, 2008). This includes issues related to nutrition, information and support needs, side effects and late effects of treatment, quality of life and psychosocial wellbeing.

Despite progress in terms of cancer survivorship research, substantial gaps still exist in our understanding of the timing of and the nutritional impact (both physical and psychosocial) on the individual of the side effects and late effects of different treatment modalities for cancer. This holds implications for the design and delivery of care after treatment. There is a need to better understand how 1) individuals manage the cognitive, behavioural and emotional response to the treatment and how 2) the role of food and eating behaviour in supporting a return to as full a normal life as possible.

Research Aim:
- To understand the impact of the side and late effects of different modalities of primary treatment for cancer on food choice and eating behaviour
- To understand the information, education and support needs to facilitate timely and appropriate food choice and eating behaviour
- To develop and pilot an intervention to meet these needs

Following an initial systematic review of the literature, the PhD student will conduct a series of interviews and/ or Delphi or questionnaire surveys with patients, significant others and relevant health and care providers within primary and secondary care.

Through study 1, the student will focus on understanding which patients experience side effects and late effects of different treatment modalities for cancer that impact on food choice and eating behaviour, what are these side effects and late effects and when do they occur in the cancer care and aftercare pathway. The student will also investigate how individuals and family members have tried to manage the impact on food choice and eating behaviour (cognitive, behavioural and emotional response), what support they have received, what information, education and support needs have remained unmet and the views of these groups on how the current system could be improved.

Through study 2, the student will seek to understand what data is routinely collected about nutritional needs and support within primary and secondary care, how needs are identified and what information, education and support is currently provided by health care professionals. They will also explore what are the unmet needs and barriers within the current system and how could this be improved. The work conducted will provide a foundation for the development of future interventions.

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of APPLIED HEALTH SCIENCE. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Health Science, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Candidates should contact the lead supervisor to discuss the project in advance of submitting an application, as supervisors will be expected to provide a letter of support for suitable applicants. Candidates will be informed after the application deadline if they have been shortlisted for interview.

Funding Notes

This project is part of a competition funded by the Institute of Applied Health Sciences. Full funding is available to UK/EU candidates only. Overseas candidates can apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £16,625 per annum).

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.

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