BACKGROUND & AIMS: During treatment for cancer, children experience many side effects such as lack of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. As a result, ensuring adequate intake puts pressure on both the child and the parent. This study aims to determine the prevalence, causes and consequences of eating and feeding problems in children treated for cancer.
METHODS: Parents of 85 children with cancer completed the Behavioral Pediatrics Feeding Assessment Scale (BPFAS) and symptoms, BMI, energy intake, feeding style, and parental distress were measured at 0, 3, 6 and 12 months after diagnosis.
RESULTS: Parent-reports revealed that almost a quarter of the children experienced eating disorder: 15.7% experienced problems related to diminished intake and 8.6% related to excessive intake. Prevalence of feeding disorders related to parents' behavior was 21.1%. In children <8 years prevalence of eating and feeding disorders was significantly higher: 31% and 36% for child and parent behavior respectively. Younger age, poor pre-illness eating behavior, increase in symptoms and a demanding feeding style were associated with more eating problems. Excessive eating resulted in higher energy intake, however, no association was found between eating problems and nutritional status. Food refusal resulted in more parental distress.
CONCLUSIONS: Especially younger children with cancer are at risk for eating and feeding problems. In addition, poor pre-illness eating behavior, symptoms and a demanding feeding style aggravate eating problems. Therefore, interventions should focus at diminishing side effects of treatment and instructing parents to be less demanding regarding their child's eating behavior.