Background: The prevalence of malnutrition in children with cancer ranges between 8% and 60%. Malnutrition is strongly associated with the nature of treatment and increases an individual's risk of infection. Clinical studies have suggested that nutrition intervention may decrease toxicity and improve survival in the oncology population. In order to identify the standards of practice in the nutritional management of a child with cancer, we conducted an international survey in institutions that are part of the Children's Oncology Group (COG) consortium.
Procedure: Surveys were submitted to 233 participating COG institutions. We requested one member in three disciplines complete the survey: physician, registered dietitian, and nurse or nurse practitioner. The survey was returned to the nutrition sub-committee of COG.
Results: Fifty-four percent of institutions responded to the survey. We found no consistency in the provision of nutrition services. Assessment of nutritional status does not routinely occur and different indices are employed to indicate the nutrition status of a patient. Institutions rely upon different guidelines when categorizing malnutrition. When nutrition intervention is clinically indicated, a variety of approaches are employed.
Conclusions: This survey did not find standardized nutrition protocols being employed in the pediatric oncology population. The effect of varied nutrition practices on the quality of life, toxicity, and outcome in children with cancer is unknown. Prior to the initiation of clinical trials, uniform guidelines need to be developed and validated. Future clinical trials need to investigate the most efficacious method of nutrition assessment and intervention and its effect on quality of life, toxicity, and survival in children with cancer.