CureSearch for Children's Cancer funds and supportstargeted and innovative children's cancer research with measurableresults, and is the authoritative source of information and resourcesfor all those affected by children's cancer.
Many children lose weight during chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Your healthcare team will closely watch your child’s weight. If your child cannot eat enough to grow and stay healthy, talk to your healthcare provider about nutritional interventions (see below). For further information about nutrition, see “Why Nutrition Is Important for Your Child.”
The first focus for meeting nutritional needs is by the oral route (eating and drinking). Special diets (high calorie, high protein) and oral nutritional supplements (commercial products, homemade milkshakes) can be helpful.
Tube feeding involves threading a thin, flexible tube through the nose right into the digestive tract (called a naso-gastric or NG tube). Once the tube is in place, nutritional formulas can be given directly. Tube feedings can be provided in the hospital and at home if needed. Many parents are trained to provide tube feedings at home.
Although it is possible to meet 100% of a child’s requirement for calories, protein, vitamins and minerals with such formulas, a patient with a feeding tube also can usually continue to eat because feeding tubes are small enough not to interrupt the normal swallowing process.
Many physicians recommend tube-feeding at night while your child sleeps and encouraging him or her to eat normally during the day, since eating with friends and family is an important part of a child’s social life.
If needed, medications to combat nausea and vomiting can be given through the tube. In fact, children often feel better once tube feedings begin, because they are receiving the nutrition they need. As a result, they often eat and drink more on their own. Another benefit is that normal intestinal function is maintained, since nutrition is delivered straight to the gastrointestinal tract.
Most young children adapt to tube feeding after a few days. Older children and teenagers have a more difficult time adjusting to the presence of a tube in their nose, perhaps because they are more sensitive to appearance and social issues. It often helps to have a peer who has experienced tube feedings visit with these patients.
If tube feedings will continue when your child is in school, a member of the treatment center can visit the child’s class to explain why tube feedings are necessary. Children should never be threatened with tube feedings as a punishment for not being able to meet their nutritional needs. Older children should participate as much as possible in the decision to begin tube feedings.
If severe digestive system problems are present, tube feeding may not be the best option to provide your child with the necessary nutrients.