Cancer Support Group

Saturday, May 15th

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Cancer and Children

Cancer and Children
Cancer is not just one disease, but a large group of almost one hundred diseases. Its two main characteristics are uncontrolled growth of the cells in the human body and the ability of these cells to migrate from the original site and spread to distant sites. If the spread is not controlled, cancer can result in death.

Can a child with cancer be cured?
Yes. There are few things that can be more frightening than the word “Cancer” But many cancers respond remarkably well to treatment. The overall cure rate for children with cancer is 60%, but such a group number doesn’t really apply to a given individual. Individually, the cure rate depends largely on what type of cancer is present, how far the cancer may have spread when it is diagnosed, and other factors. Children may have differing responses to a given therapy. The nature of the therapy to be given is discussed by the doctors before administration.

What are the types of cancers in children?
There are many types of cancers which occur in children. Of these Acute lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL) is the most common childhood malignancy and accounts for almost one–third of all childhood cancers.

Cancers of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) are the second most common cancers in children. Most brain cancers of children involve the cerebellum or brain stem. The Cerebrospinal fluid is invariably involved in cancer of the brain cells.

Neuroblastoma is the most common extra–cranial (outside of the brain) solid tumor in children and most often diagnosed during the first year of life.

Wilms’ Tumour
Wilms’ Tumour is a cancer that may involve one or both kidneys. It is most often found in children between two and three years old.

Retinoblastoma is a cancer of the eye. Although relatively rare, it accounts for 5% of childhood cancers.

Rhabdomyosarcoma the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children. The tumor originates from the same embryonic cells that develop into striated (voluntary) muscles.

Osteosarcoma the most common type of primary bone cancer in children and young adults.
Ewing’s Sarcoma is a less common primary bone cancer that occurs mostly in children and adolescents.

How does one ensure that a child is getting adequate nourishment?
Proper nutrition is important for all children, especially for children being treated for cancer. This is because many factors related to the illness itself, as well as the treatment given may affect a child’s appetite, tolerance to foods and the body’s ability to use nutrients. The nutritional needs of an individual in treatment vary from child to child. The doctor, nurse or dietitian will work with you to determine specific nutritional goals and an approach to feeding which meets the special needs of your child. Children with cancer will benefit from a good diet because then they are able to participate in play and school activities. It also improves their tolerance to treatment.

Eating well actually means eating a variety of foods in order to obtain all essential nutrients for growth, plus the additional demands made by the illness and treatment. Nutrients which are essential to a child’s needs include protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals.

What can I do to increase my child’s calorie and protein intake?
Several small meals a day are better than three large ones. Take advantage of when your child feels hungry. Serve food when the child is hungry and make certain that protein rich small meals are served. Activity helps to increase appetite. Encourage your child to eat more when feeling well.

Eating Tips for Children
These tips are offered to help your child eat. Well–nourished children may tolerate treatment better than undernourished children. However, don’t make food a battleground. Encourage eating high–calorie, high–protein foods and don’t worry about the amount of fat. Hamburgers, fries, pizzas, and ice cream are alright occasionally. Encourage frequent snacks, such as peanut butter and crackers, cheese sticks, puddings, fruit rollups, and cereal and milk.

Use the Food Guide Pyramid as a guide for good nutrition. Encourage plenty of fluids throughout the day. Use colorful cups, mugs, and straws.

Make food fun:

  1. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes from sandwiches, gelatin desserts, meats, and cheeses.
  2. Make “Faces” out of fruits and vegetables (many children’s cookbooks have examples.).
  3. Serve food in unusual containers or on cartoon character plates.
  4. Have picnics (you can even use the backyard, the living room, or the attic.).
  5. Let the child help prepare the food.
Make mealtime a pleasant experience. Inviting friends to share meals or eating out can increase children’s food intake.

Plan ahead for meals missed because of doctors’ appointments, treatment appointments and the like. Take along juice packs, plastic bags with snacks, and non–perishable pre–packed foods, such as fruit cups, puddings, and cheese and crackers.

Arrange with the child’s school to allow snacking. Contact your doctor or nurse if the child has treatment–related problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Who can help with your child’s nutrition needs?
If you are the parent of a child with cancer, you can and should talk with your doctor about your child’s nutrition needs. Your doctor may suggest a nutrition consultation with a registered dietitian. If you are concerned about your child’s ability to eat proper foods, do not hesitate to make your concerns known to the health care team at any time.


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