Children with cancer often have greater calorie and protein needs. Protein is needed for growth and to help the body repair itself. Getting enough calories can help the body grow, heal and prevent weight loss. If your child is having trouble eating enough calories and protein, your child's doctor or dietitian may suggest they eat high-calorie and high-protein foods (e.g., eggs, milk, peanut butter, cheese, nuts and beans). They also may suggest that your child try oral supplements such as Carnation Instant Breakfast, Ensure, Boost or Pediasure.
Sometimes, even when high-calorie and high-protein foods are offered, children with cancer have trouble eating enough. When this happens, medications that increase your child’s hunger may be used.
Tube feedings may be needed to help provide your child enough nutrition or to prevent malnutrition. This involves placing a small tube through the nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach or small intestine. Your child’s doctor and dietitian will teach you about the types of formulas that can be given through these tubes and will talk with you about a plan for feeding your child using these tubes.
Children that are having treatment for cancer sometimes need IV nutrition, called total parenteral nutrition (TPN). When needed, TPN can be a good way of giving complete nutrition that is managed by the dietitian, pharmacist and doctor. A dietitian will be involved your child’s care during the hospital stay and when they are seen at clinic appointments by the doctor. The dietitian will make goals for how much your child needs to eat and drink. They will also talk with you about your child’s growth and weight gain goals. Sometimes during treatment, children can become very uninterested in eating, especially if they have had lots of nausea, vomiting, or pain with eating. If this happens, a speech language pathologist can work with your child to help them start eating again. They can also give you method to help with eating at home.