Go, Grow, Glow: Nutritional Therapy for Pediatric Oncology Patients

Article written by Rianne Danielle P. Javinal

Ever wondered what keeps our brain fueled, making us function in our activities of daily living within the 24 hours of the day? Food and proper nutrition keep us going in our everyday lives. They are vital in maintaining health, especially for children undergoing cancer treatments. A healthy and well-balanced diet aids cancer treatments in improving the quality of life of the patients. At the same time, it helps them recover from the treatments by promoting strength and overall wellness.

According to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, some of the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and poor appetite. Chemotherapy could cause dryness or soreness of the mouth, throat, or esophagus. This eventually leads to chewing and swallowing problems. Radiation to the digestive tract can cause soreness. Tumors of the digestive tract put patients at risk of not getting enough nutrients. As a result, the attainment of nutrients that the children need to gain strength and good health while undergoing treatments can be compromised.

Given that, there are nutritional support strategies that ensure sufficient nutrients for children undergoing cancer treatments. Enteral Nutrition, also known as Tube Feeding, refers to the provision of nutrients in liquid or formula form through a tube placed into the stomach or intestine. This is done when obtaining nutrients through the mouth is difficult. Some medicines could also be administered through the feeding tube. Feeding tubes can be placed through the nose (non-surgical) or a small cut in the abdomen (surgical) (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, n.d.). Parenteral Nutrition refers to the provision of nutrients through liquid IV solution through a catheter. The nutrients go directly into the bloodstream. This is done when oral or enteral feeding is difficult (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, n.d.).

Some of the key nutrients that are vital during cancer treatment include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. As building blocks of the human cell, proteins are needed by cancer patients to heal good cells that were damaged by treatment. To gain strength and energy for everyday living, carbohydrates are needed. Healthy fats also give off energy and help in fighting inflammation (Parkview, 2018).

Optimal support and aid could truly spark hope in children who are strongly fighting their battles. As a quote from Hippocrates says, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle could do much in giving the patients the strength to face a new day.


Clinical Nutrition for Childhood Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://together.stjude.org/en-us/care-support/clinical-nutrition.html.

Nutrition in Children with Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.stjude.org/treatment/services/clinics-and-services/clinical-nutrition/nutrition-in-children-with-cancer.html.

The importance of nutrition in cancer care. (2018, June 12). Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.parkview.com/community/dashboard/the-importance-of-nutrition-in-cancer-care.