Nutrition for Children with Cancer

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Benefits of good nutrition

Good nutrition is especially important when a child has cancer. Both cancer and its treatments may affect a child’s appetite, tolerance to foods, and their body’s ability to use nutrients. Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after treatment can help a child feel better and stay stronger.

Cancer and cancer treatments can also affect the way the body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients. The nutrient needs of kids with cancer vary from child to child. Your child’s doctor, nurses, and a registered dietitian can help identify nutrition goals and plan ways to help your child meet them. Eating well during cancer treatment might help your child:

  • Better tolerate treatment and treatment side effects
  • Stay closer to the treatment plan schedule
  • Heal and recover faster
  • Have less risk of infection during treatment
  • Have better strength and energy
  • Keep up their weight and their body’s store of nutrients
  • Do better at keeping up normal growth and development
  • Feel better and have a better quality of life – they are less irritable, sleep better, and work better with the health care team

Each child with cancer has their own nutrition needs. Talk to the health care team any time you have concerns about how much your child has been eating or drinking. Your doctor, nurse, dietitian, speech pathologist, and even your child’s dentist can work with you to figure out your child’s needs and come up with an eating plan.

A registered dietitian (RD) is one of your best sources of information about your child’s diet. This health care professional has special training in food, nutrition, biochemistry, and physiology. The dietitian uses this knowledge to promote health and prevent disease through counseling and education. If you are going to meet with a dietitian, be sure to write down any questions before your meeting so you don’t forget anything. Ask them to repeat or explain anything that is not clear. If you have a question about something in this guide, your dietitian can give you a more detailed explanation. For more information or to find a registered dietitian, contact the American Dietetic Association (see the “To learn more” section at the end of this document).


Last Medical Review: 06/30/2014
Last Revised: 06/30/2014