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What’s it like when you find eating difficult: children’s and parents’ experiences of food intake

Journal title
Cancer nursing
Publication year
Gibson, F.; Shipway, L.; Barry, A.; Taylor, R. M.

BACKGROUND: Despite significant advances in supportive care, children and families continue to face many challenges managing the consequences of cancer therapies. The purpose of this study was to explore the eating experiences of children, both at home and in hospital. OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of children and their families regarding food intake and discover how nutritional issues are managed by children and families. METHODS: A stratified sample was recruited according to stage in treatment journey, risk of developing nutritional problems, and aged 4 to 12 years undergoing chemotherapy at a cancer center in London, was recruited. This qualitative study involved the use of 2 key visual storytelling techniques: (1) photographs and drawings contained in a scrapbook or diary used as interview stimuli and (2) in-depth interviews with parents. RESULTS: Our study revealed a complex interplay between the context of care, added to an individual child’s desires and nutritional needs that are constantly changing during therapy. Failures in the hospital system to meet the nutritional needs of children placed extra stress on parents to provide food for their children. CONCLUSIONS: A relaxed and creative approach to tempting and keeping children engaged with food and eating was a focus for parents, which avoided what they described as making a "big deal about it." Poor information meant that children and parents were not always prepared for the adverse effects of therapies. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: This study contributes much to the emerging description of practice guidance and informs strategies that can be used by children and parents.

Research abstracts