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 correct balance of a wide variety of foods. For children who have cancer, eating well is especially important.

Eating well

All children need to eat well to stay healthy and to grow well. Eating well means eating the correct balance of a wide variety of foods. The food pyramid shows the importance of each food group. 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 some problems with eating well that are common among children with cancer - see these listed below. 

You should always contact your dietician if your child is experiencing eating problems. If you printed and filled out the Important contacts page, you can find the name and phone number of your dietician there.

During times of illness, nutritional requirements such as calorie intake may need to be adjusted for individual needs. Your dietician will provide a guide for these times.

Does anything in food cause cancer?

No. Many parents worry that certain foods eaten by their child may have caused the cancer. There is no evidence that this is true. Some adult cancers are thought to be linked to diets which are low in fruit and vegetables, but there is no evidence that food has any effect in childhood cancers.

Can the cancer be cured with a special diet?

There are claims that certain diets or dietary supplements can cure cancer but the information can be misleading. It is important to discuss information you have about special diets and dietary supplements with your doctor or dietician 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 they normally would - your dietician will offer advice.

Some common problems for children with cancer

There are some problems with eating well that are common among children with cancer. The following are links to fact sheets which offer explanations about each problem and suggestions for management:

Nasogastric and gastrostomy feeding

Sometimes, if a child has lost a lot of weight or has not been eating very well for a period of time, they will need nasogastric feeding. See:

Where to go for information and support

On this website:
Childhood cancer: Where to go for more information and support

All the information in the Childhood cancer section of this website has 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 National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.

This page last reviewed 22 June 2013.
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