Effects of Childhood Cancer
Chemo and radiation make children feel sick and weak. They also make hair fall out. This can be very scary and makes children with cancer feel different from their peers. Often, these children are also coping with major trust issues, since the world no longer feels safe.
Out of every 4 children diagnosed, one will not survive past 5 years and three will have life-long complications due to aggressive treatments for their cancer. When treatment stops, an entirely different battle begins..
The Battle After Treatment
Because children’s bodies are still developing, toxic therapies damage more than just the cancer cells. Young cancer survivors live the remainder of their lives with the side-effects of their initial treatments.
A few of these side effects are:
- Delayed/ Disrupted cognitive development
- Stunted Growth
- Damaged speech and/or hearing
- Infertility and Endocrine Dysfunction
- Learning Disabilities
- Physical Handicaps due to nerve damage or amputation
- As many as 2/3rds of survivors have at least one chronic health effect.
- 25% of survivors have severe or life-threatening effects.
- 10% will develop a secondary cancer.
Follow-up care is CRUCIAL. However, only 20% of children receive follow-up care. This is in stark
contrast to the 90% adults who receive follow-up care.
The child’s entire family is affected.
Because cancer usually strikes children at a young age, their families are often very young as well. There may also be other small children at home to look after.
Sometimes, one or both parents must stop working in order to care for the sick child.
As travel and treatment are demanding, siblings are often put to the wayside. Some may be constantly shuttled around and may have problems maintaining a normal schedule. They are worried, resentful, and feel abandoned.
These children may develop behavioral problems, anxiety, or depression.
Children with cancer can best be helped by doctors who have specialized in treating pediatric cancer patients. These specialized treatment centers are spread across the country, so families must travel to get the best treatment for their children.
This puts a financial, emotional, and social strain on the parents.
Parents can spend over 40 hours per week caring for their sick child. That’s an understatement!
Studies have even shown that parents of a child with cancer may exhibit symptoms similar to those of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The effects on parents are almost always long term. If the child dies, parents deal with difficult and long-lasting grief. If the child lives, parents may still have to care for a child who has mild, moderate or severe physical or emotional late effects. They may spend the rest of their lives helping their child deal with those issues.
Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. ~ Robert Brault