By Usha Banerji
Unlike adult cancers, childhood cancers are highly curable provided treatment is timely and completed. Although a child who successfully completes treatment is cause for celebration, there may be new challenges after treatment. Families often fear a relapse, have difficulty adapting to the new routine and fear being without their care teams. While some families are more resilient, others take longer to adjust to life after treatment.
Overall, children with timely support do well and fit into the mainstream. Many excel in academics and sports, and there’s no reason most shouldn’t live as normal a life as any other child their age. A supportive and understanding family and social environment helps immensely.
Treatment centers are now holding post-treatment clinics for survivors to monitor them continuously for any signs of physical and emotional distress or academic difficulties.
Many side effects or problems that occur during cancer treatment go away or get better over time after treatment. However, for some children, there may be some long-term side effects of the disease and its treatment, such as amputation. In some cases, medical problems set in later. These are called late effects. Childhood cancer patients who receive treatment during the crucial years of their development can experience long-term physical, psychological and cognitive impacts. Changes in organs, tissues and/or bodily processes are considered to be some of the late physical effects that impact a child’s growth and development. Changes in the child’s memory, learning and cognitive abilities are also some of the late effects of treatment.
Some children treated for cancer experience many physical side effects, while others experience very few. Depending on their age and when they were treated, some patients also experience alterations in mood and feelings and struggle with social and emotional distress. Some children tend to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Physical injury or extreme mental or emotional suffering can trigger this anxiety. Flashbacks related to the diagnosis or treatment are among the symptoms of PTSD, as are avoiding places that serve as memories of the event and feeling scared, restless, unable to fall asleep or sleep. have trouble concentrating.
Cancer survivors can choose from many different paths, some may opt for traditional medical care, while others may seek alternative or complementary treatments. Depending on who is providing this care, the survivor population, the location of care, and/or the capacity to provide particular services, many models of survivorship care have been developed.
Overcome survival challenges with:
Friends and family: Parents can be seen as the primary advocates for the child in pediatric treatment. They can identify their child’s needs and can begin to use support options as needed. Therefore, parents play a crucial role in recognizing potential barriers and are essential to the reintegration process. Their views and experiences are essential to the creation of psychological support programs. Critical elements to reduce psychological and emotional distress and increase identification of long-term risks associated with cancer treatment include parental knowledge, parental support, and survivorship care education. In post-treatment clinical assessments, health care practitioners should consider including items such as assessment of family functioning and parent education. It may be more effective to consider family support when determining a survivor’s post-treatment supportive care needs. A caring social environment of teachers, peer groups, and contact with school and classmates also facilitates children’s return to normal life.
Support groups: It may be beneficial to seek advice from a qualified mental health expert to reduce stress, improve coping and decision-making skills, and improve overall quality of life. In support groups, families can exchange experiences and gain knowledge from those who have gone through particular problems. Joining a local support group or online forum for childhood cancer survivors can be beneficial. There are also support groups for parents of children with cancer. Talking to a friend or medical staff member is another option for getting help.
NGO: Based on the cancer treatment summary, which includes a description of the therapies the child has undergone and any potential long-term consequences, many NGOs help develop a treatment summary and survivorship care plan. NGOs also play a role in the health education of post-cancer survivors. One of the main objectives is to advise families on healthy lifestyles, potential side effects of cancer treatments and steps to take to avoid developing new health problems. Some survivors struggle with feelings of loneliness, recurring anxiety, and stress related to dealing with ongoing medical needs. Psychologists and social workers can help you with these and other insurance and employment issues.
Any survival program should be tailored to the individual needs of a child. The most important thing for cancer survivors is to stand up for themselves and their needs. It’s also important to find a support system of family and friends who can offer emotional guidance and help with day-to-day tasks.
(The author is a Team Leader, St. Judes for Life (Founded in memory of Mrs. Rani Vicaji). The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)