Helping Kids Deal with Childhood Cancer


Orlando, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It’s a parent’s worst nightmare: being told “your child has cancer.” But how can you help your kid get through this tough time?

Each year, the parents of more than 15 thousand kids will hear the words “your child has cancer.” While cancer is the number one cause of death by disease in children, there’s also some good news.

Leslie Kean, MD, Pediatric Oncologist with Seattle Children’s Research Institute said, “The survival rates for childhood cancer have gone up every single decade.”

How can you help a child who has cancer? While every child is different, experts say be open and honest, tell them what’s going on in an age-appropriate way, and don’t try to hide anything.

“What I think it’s important to remember is that kids usually know that something’s going on,” explained Dr. Kean.

Explain what cancer is and that there’s nothing they did to get it. Talk about the different treatments they’ll have and how they might feel. Try to keep their schedule as normal as possible. Look for ways to distract your child like video games or other creative outlets. Also, don’t neglect siblings. You might want to ask other family members to help give them attention. Lastly, stay hopeful. Your kids will take cues from you.

Sometimes, connecting with families of other kids with cancer can be helpful. Your child will see that there are other children like them and may even form a new friendship.

Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT #2492

BACKGROUND: About 10, 270 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2017. Childhood cancer rates have been rising slightly for the past few decades. However, due to major treatment advances, more than 80 percent of children with cancer now survive 5 years or more. About 1,190 children younger than 15 years old are expected to die from cancer in 2017. The types of cancers that develop in children are often different from the types that develop in adults. Childhood cancers are not strongly linked to lifestyle or environmental risk factors. Only a small number of childhood cancers are caused by DNA changes that are passed from parents to their child. Children might seem to do better with cancer treatments than adults because they usually do not have other health problems that can get worse with cancer treatment. On the other hand, children are more likely to be affected by radiation therapy if it is needed as part of treatment. Both chemo, radiation therapy, and other cancer treatments also can cause long-term side effects, so children who have had cancer will need careful follow-up for the rest of their lives.

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CHILD VS. ADULT CANCER TREATMENT: Treatment for childhood cancer is based mainly on the type and stage of cancer. The most common types of treatment used are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Some types of childhood cancers might be treated with high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant. Newer types of treatment, such as targeted therapy drugs and immunotherapy, have also shown promise in treating some childhood cancers. There are exceptions, but childhood cancers usually respond well to chemotherapy because they tend to be cancers that grow fast. A child’s body is generally better able to recover from higher doses of chemotherapy than an adult body. Using more intensive treatments gives doctors a better chance of treating the cancer effectively, but it can also lead to more short and long-term side effects. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation can often cause more serious side effects in children than in adults, so its use sometimes needs to be limited. Doctors do their best to balance the need for intensive treatment with the desire to limit side effects as much as possible.


RESEARCH BREAKTHROUGH: Most children battling cancer have a surgically placed central venous catheter (CVC) or “central line” for the delivery of frequent treatments. The CVC is an alternative to an IV line and can minimize the number of needle pokes for children in therapy. Hospitals use the CVC to deliver medication and also for blood tests. While the CVC remains in place and can be used multiple times, it also presents a risk of dangerous bloodstream infections in children who already have weakened immune systems. Rita Secola, PhD, RN, at The Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, has been researching what protocols reduce bloodstream infections and what factors make infection more likely in children with a CVC. During her research, Secola and her team discovered that ongoing nurse education and compliance were most critical to reducing infection rates. Jean Mulcahy Levy, MD, from the University of Colorado Denver, is studying how stopping the process of autophagy, or cell recycling, can be an effective treatment for some types of brain tumors, bringing real hope to children battling cancer. Dr. Levy’s research discovered that in brain tumors with a BRAF mutation, inhibiting autophagy can stop the tumors from becoming treatment resistant, allowing chemotherapy to work and eliminate the disease.


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 Lindsay Kurs