Adult survivors of childhood cancer have a poor dietary intake. These habits may be manifesting themselves soon after treatment completion. This qualitative study aimed to assess parental views regarding the dietary habits of young child cancer survivors.
The parents/carers of 18 young child cancer patients (YCCP) treated at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Australia (<5 years since treatment completion and <13 years of age), participated in this study. Eighteen age- and sex-matched healthy controls were recruited from Sydney-based community organizations. The interview schedule was semi-structured, and the interview was conducted over the telephone. Interviews were conducted until thematic saturation was reached. Coding and analysis was facilitated by qualitative analysis software.
Three main themes emerged regarding parental perceptions of YCCP current intake as compared with their pre-diagnosis eating habits: (1) decreased fruit and vegetable intake, (2) increased consumption of “junk food,” and (3) increased portion sizes. Parents also described a continuation of poor eating habits that were established during their cancer treatment. The eating habits of YCCP were substantively different to that described by parents of the control group.
This exploratory project revealed parental concern regarding their child’s dietary intake once the cancer treatment had been completed. The varying habits of YCCP are likely multifactorial and may be related to treatment-related side effects and food habits established during the cancer treatment.