Childhood Cancer and Palliative Care

Summer has arrived and while most children will be spending their days happily at play, some will be receiving chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy treatments for cancer. 

Every day, 42 children are diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, a brain tumor or some other form of cancer. Pediatric oncologists battle this dreadful disease in children by using the same methods used to treat adult cancer patients, but unfortunately these treatments can have very different effect on the growing bodies of young people. The same drugs administered to adults can cause varying reactions when used to fight cancer in children.

Pain management is one area where standard adult medications have proven unreliable when administered to children. This is an on-going challenge for pediatric oncologists whose focus is on destroying cancer cells rather than on managing pain. To address these symptom management issues, a growing practice is to include palliative care professionals as part of the caregiving team.

Palliative care is generally provided by a group of specially trained doctors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers to treat the symptoms, side effects, and stress of a serious life-threatening illness. These caregivers work with oncology to manage care and offer an extra layer of support to improve the quality of life for the for young cancer patients and their parents. Many in the field of pediatric oncology have come to believe that a palliative care consultation at the time of diagnosis can better help prepare and guide parents even if their child has a good chance of surviving cancer. Palliative care may be given throughout treatment and at the end of life.

How your organization can improve care for young cancer patients: 

  • Reach out to the Pediatric care providers and Oncologists in your area and make them aware of how you can partner with them to assist in the treatment of seriously ill children in their care.
  • Plan a reading event at your local children’s hospital. Dress as a character from the story selection and provide stuffed toys for the children to keep.
  • Sponsor a fund raiser this June with your referral network to raise money for Children’s Cancer research. Donate to a leading research center in your area.

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