Helping others make healthy lifestyle choices is second nature to Lauren Fay whose mother, a nurse, sparked her interest in public health. Growing up, Lauren learned that while we can’t control all factors that influence our health, one way we can take charge of our health is through our nutrition choices. The importance of nutrition during cancer treatment, recovery and survivorship became clear to Lauren early in her career while working on the oncology nutrition team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
She was in awe of the strength and resilience of the individuals who were facing challenging cancer diagnoses and treatments, and she felt honored to be part of their treatment teams. Lauren assisted with diet modification and nutrition support to help optimize their health and strength to improve their ability to tolerate treatment and recover as soon as possible. She continued to be inspired by the motivation and drive in this survivorship population to make diet and physical activity choices to help reduce their risk for cancer recurrence, or another primary cancer occurrence. She realized helping to guide cancer survivors by providing evidence-based information regarding nutrition was a tangible way for patients to feel empowered – and helped alleviate the confusion and stress that come from conflicting information patients with cancer often receive regarding nutrition.
Lauren was fortunate to help grow her expertise in oncology nutrition with a grant fund to create an outpatient nutrition clinic at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. Most recently, she accepted her current position as an oncology dietitian clinical specialist at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute (ISCI) and Life with Cancer in Virginia. With over a decade of oncology nutrition experience under her belt, Lauren provides nutritional counseling services to the cancer community and helps support the nutritional needs of patients and caregivers before, during and after cancer. She is also working toward a master’s degree in public health with a focus on health policy. Her goal is to eventually assist with policy change to help improve access to nutrition counseling by a registered dietitian in the outpatient oncology setting.
We spoke with Lauren recently to learn more about why she says, “In my professional opinion, the American Institute for Cancer Research is one of the best resources for comprehensive, evidence-based information on nutrition and cancer.”
Q: How did you discover AICR’s resources and research?
A: I was initially introduced to AICR when doing a presentation on survivorship nutrition in 2011. I utilized the comprehensive, evidence-based report “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer” as a guide for this talk. Since then, I have continued to use AICR’s materials and I have encouraged patients and caregivers to utilize the vast number of resources available through AICR.
Q: How do does Inova Schar Cancer Institute and Life with Cancer utilize AICR’s resources?
A: We use AICR’s educational pamphlets regularly at ISCI and Life with Cancer and provide the “Nutrition During Cancer Treatment” brochure to patients as they initiate treatment. Patients and caregivers are often encouraged by me and the other oncology registered dietitians on staff to utilize AICR’s online resources and programs as well. I consistently receive excellent feedback and gratitude from patients and caregivers for the electronic resources available through the AICR website, like the healthy recipe library and programs like the Healthy10 Challenge. The FAQs and blogs are also excellent resources for addressing conflicting information about nutrition and cancer that are widely available in the media.
Q: How do the cancer patients and survivors that you work with benefit from AICR’s resources?
A: The cancer patients and survivors I work with appreciate the resources available through AICR at a centralized location. This evidence-based, reliable information regarding nutrition and cancer helps deal with the problem of a vast amount of information that is available through unreliable sources.
Q: Is there a story in particular that you can share about AICR’s work helping a member of your community?
A: I run a “Weight Management After Breast Cancer Support Group” to help breast cancer survivors achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. One member in particular used the New American Plate Challenge (now known as the Healthy10 Challenge) to jump start her nutrition and physical activity changes to be consistent with AICR’s recommendations. Over the past year, she has lost a significant amount of weight and improved other health markers like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and A1C.
Q: Have you seen the public awareness around nutrition/lifestyle and cancer risk evolving?
A: It is hard to say on a large scale, but I certainly can say on a small-scale – yes. I definitely see this knowledge improving through the individual and group education provided by myself and colleagues at ISCI and Life with Cancer.
Q: How do Inova Schar Cancer Institute’s and Life with Cancer’s staff benefit from using AICR’s resources?
A: The registered dietitians at ISCI and Life with Cancer benefit from the wonderful resources available through AICR. The informational pamphlets and handouts do an excellent job of providing concise, clear and evidence-based information regarding nutrition and cancer. The infographics summarizing information about nutrition and cancer also provide helpful visual aids that are easy for patients and caregivers to understand. The comprehensive, evidence-based guidelines provided in AICR’s Third Expert Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer is an invaluable resource that provides a framework for individual and group education on the most up-to-date recommendations to help reduce cancer risk.
This was a testimonial I provided last year regarding AICR’s resources that remains true now: “In my professional opinion, the American Institute for Cancer Research is one of the best resources for comprehensive, evidence-based information on nutrition and cancer. The AICR does an excellent job at translating what can be complex research regarding nutrition and cancer into clear, understandable terms for patients, caregivers, and other clinicians. The pamphlet and online resources provided by the AICR have been immeasurably helpful in my practice as an oncology registered dietitian.”
Q: How do AICR’s resources help Inova Schar Cancer Institute and Life with Cancer fulfill its mission?
A: ISCI and Life with Cancer’s missions are dedicated to delivering the best quality care for those impacted by cancer – from diagnosis through survivorship – and the resources provided by AICR help us fulfill this mission by providing reliable, evidence-based resources that we can use to help clarify nutrition and cancer information that is integral throughout the cancer continuum.
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If you share our passion for cancer prevention and quality survivorship, we would love to hear from you. Whatever your experience has been — whether you are a patient, caregiver, or loved one — AICR would be happy to add your story to this tapestry.