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Malnutrition, a condition that occurs when the body lacks nutrients1, is a common problem in cancer patients. The onset of cancer is reported to cause profound metabolic and physiological changes which tend to increase the nutritional need for protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. Therefore, nutritional requirements are high during cancer treatment, and may lead to malnutrition. Children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition due to increased substrate needs related to the disease, its treatment, and limited nutrient reserves2.

A significant number of children are found to be malnourished at the time of diagnosis , and at the same time, these children have increased energy and nutrient requirements to attain appropriate growth and neuro-development. Children with cancer are susceptible to nutrient-depletion due to the combined effects of the cancer and its treatment methods involving chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and / or surgery3.

Between 5 and 50% of children and young adults with cancer experience malnutrition at diagnosis, depending on the diagnosis and the malnutrition criteria used. The malnutrition is due to tumor and treatment-related factors which are strongly associated with recognized acute and long-term complications that may have an impact upon the nutritional status of the child. Modern paediatric cancer treatment affects normal as well as malignant tissues, and in so doing has the potential to create specific nutritional problems including the acute side effects of anorexia, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, alteration of taste and smell, diarrhea, food aversions, and mucositis, which lead to a combination of macro- and micro-nutrient deficiencies because of reduced nutrient-intake4.

bcf guest eating a meal.

Customized nutrition support can help the children obtain the nutrients needed to tolerate and recover from cancer treatment and prevent malnutrition. Every child needs to get proper nutrition to help fight the disease through providing a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, this helps in;

  • Building the body’s immunity to fight against the cancer and thrive after treatment
  • Maintaining body weight
  • Increasing energy and strength
  • Maintaining lean body mass
  • Improving the ability to tolerate treatment
  • Improving quality of life
  • Decreasing the risk of infection

Supervised nutrition during cancer management plays an important role in clinical outcome measures, such as treatment response, quality of life, cost of care, and survivorship5.

The importance of our work is to reinforce and indicate that malnutrition in children with cancer should not be accepted or tolerated at any stage of the disease by providing the children with adequate nutrition support that they so dearly need.

Our next article in the series will cover factors occuring even before birth that affect the likelihood of developing childhood cancer.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Marie, C. D. Malnutrition, Definition, Causes, Indicators of Assesment from a Public Health Perspective. Montepellier: Nutripass Nutrition Research Institute, 2016.
2. Ruth, A. R. Nutrition and Diet Therapy 10th Edition. New York: Cengage, 2011.
3, 4. Kathleen, M. L., & Janice, R. L. Food and The Nutrition Care Process. St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier, 2017.
5. Fatemi, D., et al. Nutrition Management of the Pediatric Oncology Patient. Chicago: Oncology Nutrition Dietetics Group, 2013.
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