Scientists and researchers are unsure of what truly causes pediatric cancer or how to prevent it. Known risk factors can include pre-existing medical conditions, genetic defects, exposure to infections or radiation and even previous cancer treatments. Additionally, lifestyle and environmental risk factors, such as weight and eating habits, usually take many years to influence cancer risks and are rare factors in childhood cancers. This means that as a parent, there’s little you can do to prevent cancer. What you can do, however, is to ensure that your child receives the best childhood cancer treatment possible. A medical center that specializes in pediatric oncology can help with the following treatments.
During a cancer-related surgery, doctors will attempt to remove the tumor or affected cells and some nearby tissue. This helps prevent the cancer from spreading further and is often an effective treatment. Certain types of surgery are minimally invasive, speeding up recovery times and minimizing pain in the process, but these are not always available. Your child’s surgeon will be able to explain the options available based on the type, stage, and severity of cancer. Reconstructive surgery is also available after treatment to repair skin and cover scars after treatment.
During chemotherapy treatment, powerful medications are used to destroy cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. The drugs are typically given through intravenous infusions, orally, or by injection. Chemotherapy can be used alongside other treatments, allowing doctors to shrink tumors before surgery to make them more manageable. It can also be utilized after radiation or surgery to ensure that any remaining cancer cells have been removed. This treatment is intense, may or may not be administered on a daily basis and may last for a period of months or more.
Radiation therapy uses radiant energy to destroy cancer cells and slow tumor growth. It is a non-invasive treatment and is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy or as a first treatment. Radiation can also be used to shrink tumors and relieve some symptoms. Sophisticated machines can focus the size and shape of the radiation beam to help avoid affecting healthy tissue. There are dozens of types of radiation available, each of which is designed to meet a specific child’s needs based on their cancer type, its location and more.
Bone Marrow Transplant
During a bone marrow transplant, healthy stem cells are put into the bloodstream so that they can make new, healthier blood, bone marrow and immune system cells. In some cases, children can receive their own stem cells after doctors have used other treatments to combat the cancer. These cells are removed, frozen and thawed after treatment before being reinjected. Other children receive stem cells from a donor whose bone marrow matches their own. In each case, stem cells begin producing new cells after about 24 hours.
Choosing a Childhood Cancer Treatment
Your child’s doctor may use one or more of these treatments to help them recover from their illness. The type chosen will depend on your child’s age, the type of cancer, and its severity, among other factors. Speak with your child’s medical team about what to expect given your child’s unique circumstances.
Pediatric Palliative Care
Some cancer treatments can leave your child feeling nauseous, uncomfortable, and fatigued. Palliative care helps minimize these side effects. During this type of care, a team of nurses, therapists, and other medical professionals will ensure that your child is as comfortable as possible while receiving treatment. This can include controlling pain with medication, connecting them with various types of therapy to help relieve stress, and even helping them get some light exercise. Palliative care can begin as soon as your child is diagnosed and continue for as long as necessary.
Families can also benefit from palliative care. While your child is receiving the support of educated professionals, parents, siblings, and family caregivers will have access to emotional and spiritual counselors. These professionals can help you work through your emotions and develop coping strategies, discuss what’s happening with siblings, and help your family access other important resources.
Scheduling Palliative Care Services
Reach out to KidsCare of the Rockies for support during this often tumultuous time. KidsCare assembles teams of highly educated nurses, therapists, and medical professionals to help your child feel their best while they receive childhood cancer treatment. Each KidsCare team carefully designs a custom care plan based on your child’s medical treatments and family needs, updating it as necessary throughout the treatment to provide the most comfort to all.