Nutrition and childhood cancer

Nutrition and childhood cancer

All children need to eat well to stay healthy and to grow well. Eating well means eating the right balance of a wide variety of foods. For children who have cancer, eating well is especially important.

Key points to remember

This page is part of a whole section about childhood cancer.

  • all children need to eat well to stay healthy and to grow well
  • for children who have cancer, eating well is especially important
  • as with any child, your child needs food from each of the groups in the food pyramid
  • you should always contact your dietitian if your child has any eating problems
  • when your child is ill, you may need to adjust their nutritional needs such as their calorie intake

Eating well

All children need to eat well to stay healthy and to grow well. Eating well means eating the right balance of a wide variety of foods. For children who have cancer, eating well is especially important because it will:

help to maintain their normal growth
improve their body's ability to fight infection
help them cope better with the stress and the side effects of treatment
help with healing

There are common problems that children with cancer have when it comes to eating well - see these listed below.

You should always contact your dietitian if your child has any eating problems.

You should always contact your dietitian if your child has any eating problems.

When your child is ill, you may need to adjust their nutritional needs such as their calorie intake. Your child's dietitian will give you advice about this.

See the Child Cancer Foundation ebook - Helping your child eat well.

Thumbnail image of book cover

Does anything in food cause cancer?

No. Many parents worry that certain foods their child has eaten may have caused the cancer. There is no evidence that this is true. There is some thinking that there is a link between some adult cancers and diets that are low in fruit and vegetables. But, there is no evidence that food has any effect in childhood cancers.

Can a special diet cure cancer?

There are claims that certain diets or dietary supplements can cure cancer but the information can be misleading. It is important to discuss any special diets and dietary supplements with your doctor or dietitian who will help you.

What are the best foods for my child who has cancer?

As with any child, your child needs food from each of the groups in the food pyramid. Children having treatment for cancer need more calories and nutrients than normal - your dietitian can give you advice about this.

Some common problems for children with cancer

Children with cancer have some common problems which can make it difficult to eat well. See the following links to information on specific problems and suggestions on how to manage them:

Nasogastric and gastrostomy feeding

If your child has lost a lot of weight or has not been eating very well for a while, they may need tube feeding for a period.

All the pages in the childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the clinical leader of the National Child Cancer Network.

This page last reviewed 25 May 2018.
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