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Background. Malnutrition in children with cancer is a common problem, especially in developing countries. Determination of nutritional status on admission and during treatment is crucial to reduce morbidity and mortality.
Objectives. This study reports the prevalence of malnutrition in children with cancer and its impact on outcomes.
Methods. A retrospective study identified newly diagnosed children with cancer between January 2017 and June 2018 at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALCH), an academic hospital in South Africa (SA). The cohort comprised 139 patients. Demographic, anthropometric and outcome data were collected from the hospital electronic database. World Health Organization (WHO) criteria were applied to classify nutritional status. The impact of nutritional status on mortality, length of hospital stay and infection status in the first year was assessed.
Results. The prevalence of malnutrition in our cohort of 139 patients was 31.7% (17.3% wasted, 7.2% stunted and 7.2% wasted and stunted). There was a higher incidence of wasting in children with solid tumours than those with haematological malignancies although this was not statistically significant (21.2% v. 7.7% respectively, p-value 0.242). No significant difference in early mortality, length of hospital stay or rate of infection was noted in malnourished patients compared with well-nourished patients.
Conclusion. The prevalence of malnutrition in our cohort with cancer was high but not associated with an increased risk of mortality, hospital stay or infection. A larger sample size using a combination of arm- and weight/height-based anthropometry is recommended to confirm these findings.
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