Nutrition in 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.

During treatment, there can be a loss of the desire for food (loss of appetite) and an inability to eat enough food resulting in a decreased calorie intake and subsequent weight loss. Some ideas that can help ensure an adequate intake of calories.

Medications given during treatment can bring about taste changes for some children. Some things you can do that others have found helpful.

Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of some cancers and cancer treatment. Medications will be prescribed to manage this but there may still be times when nausea and vomiting affect the desire and the ability to eat and drink. Some ideas you can try to help on these occasions.

Constipation is common in childhood cancer and can lead to an anal fissure which could result in an infection. High fibre foods and extra fluids to drink can help a child who is constipated.

If your child with childhood cancer has diarrhoea, they need to drink more fluids than normal to replace fluids lost in the watery stools (poo). Water, diluted fruit juice or flat soft drinks are suitable. Meals should be light, smaller than usual and offered more frequently than normal.

A sore mouth and throat are common side effects of treatment which can affect a child's ability to eat, making it more difficult for them to have a balanced and varied diet. The first step is to make sure your child has a fresh, clean mouth before eating. Some hints about foods to select.

Children who are neutropaenic are at risk of infection including the food related illness gastroenteritis. Tips on keeping food safe to eat and foods to avoid.