Anorexia, or loss of appetite, is one of the most common problems associated with the treatment of cancer. Children suffering from nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, altered sense of smell and taste, mouth sores, and other unpleasant side effects understandably do not feel hungry. Loss of appetite is most pronounced during the intensive periods of treatment, such as induction, consolidation, or delayed intensification. If your child loses more than 10 to 15 percent of her body weight, she may need to be fed intravenously or by nasogastric tube. Sometimes this can be avoided if parents learn how to increase calories in small amounts of food.
My son looked like a skeleton several months into his protocol for high-risk ALL. I used to dress him in "camouflage" clothes—several layers thick. This kept him warm and prevented stares.
In addition to simple loss of appetite, your child may experience a side effect of chemotherapy called early filling. This means that the child has a sense of being full after only a few bites of food. If the child is suffering from early filling and only eats when hungry, she may begin losing weight and become malnourished. This chapter provides dozens of creative ways to encourage your child to eat more.
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