Every parent whose child gets diagnosed with cancer eagerly waits for their kid to beat it. Once the treatment for childhood cancer is done, it brings great joy. But as you celebrate, you may also worry about the return of cancer. Even though there will be no more chemotherapy, follow-up care will be required. You will continue to take your child to the doctor for check-ups. But your job won’t end there. You will have to care a lot for your child after cancer treatment. On World Cancer Day, which is observed on February 4, let us tell you some ways to care for childhood cancer survivors.
Every year, about 400,000 children aged between 0 and 19 develop cancer, as per the World Health Organization (WHO). Comprehensive services are generally accessible in high-income nations, so more than 80 percent of children with cancer get cured there. The figure is much lower in low- and middle-income countries, where less than 30 percent children are cured, according to the WHO.
Leukaemia, brain tumour, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumour (kidney cancer), lymphoma, and rhabdomyosarcoma are among the common cancers among children, says senior medical oncologist Dr Manish Sharma. Although juvenile cancers are less common than adult malignancies, they nevertheless need to be treated with specialised care. Medical research advancements keep improving the prognosis for youngsters with cancer.
Parents of childhood cancer survivors can anticipate routine check-ups, treatment side effect monitoring, and conversations regarding the child’s general health and well-being during follow-up appointments. Screenings for potential side effects, such as organ failure or secondary malignancies, are frequently included of these appointments. Parents should be ready to have conversations with their children regarding their emotional health, any psychological affects, and ways to deal with any aftereffects of the cancer experience.
Childhood cancer survivors may experience lingering side effects from their treatments, known as late effects. These can vary depending on the type of cancer, the specific treatments received, and individual factors, says Dr Sharma.
Possible late effects may include:
Regular follow-up visits with doctors are essential to monitor and address any late effects promptly. This will enable early intervention and improve the long-term health outcomes for childhood cancer survivors.
Apart from meeting with the doctors, parents can do the following:
Encourage a balanced and healthy lifestyle, including nutritious diet choices, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. This will help to support your child’s overall well-being and recovery, says Dr Sharma.
Provide emotional support by fostering open communication, addressing your child’s feelings and concerns. You can also take professional help if needed to cope with the emotional challenges post-treatment.
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Collaborate with teachers and school staff to address any learning difficulties or cognitive challenges your child may face. This will ensure appropriate accommodations and support in the educational setting.
Be vigilant for signs of potential late effects and work closely with doctors to ensure timely screenings and interventions. This includes monitoring for secondary cancers, cardiac issues, and hormonal imbalances.
Foster your child’s independence and self-management skills as they transition back to normal life, promoting a sense of control and confidence in managing their health.
Explore support groups and connect with other families who have experienced childhood cancer. Sharing experiences and advice can provide emotional support and practical insights, says the expert.
Be an advocate for comprehensive care, ensuring that your child receives coordinated and multidisciplinary support from doctors, addressing physical, emotional, and educational needs.
Recognise and address any psychosocial challenges your child may face, such as anxiety or depression. You can seek professional counselling or therapy when necessary.
Extend care to your child’s siblings by helping them understand and cope with the impact of childhood cancer on the family dynamic. Encourage open communication and provide emotional support for the entire family unit.
Caring for childhood cancer survivors involves a holistic approach, and parents play a crucial role in helping their child transition successfully into survivorship and lead a healthy, fulfilling life after cancer.