Journey of survivorship of children after treatment for paediatric cancer | The Financial Express

Journey of survivorship of children after treatment for paediatric cancer

Many side-effects or issues that arise during cancer therapy disappear or become better over time post-treatment.

Journey of survivorship of children after treatment for paediatric cancer
Out of 2.1 lakh breast cancer cases in India, almost 50 percent are hormone positive. (File)

By Usha Banerji

Childhood cancers unlike those of adults are highly curable provided the treatment is given in time and completed. While a child successfully completing treatment is a cause for celebration, there may be some new challenges post-treatment. Families are often concerned about a relapse, along with difficulties in adjusting to the new routine,s and anxious about managing without their healthcare teams. While some families are more resilient, some take longer to adjust to life after treatment.

By and large children with timely support do well and integrate into the mainstream. Several excel in academics and sports and there is no reason for most not to live a life as normal as any other child of their age. A supportive and understanding family and social environment help immensely.

Treatment centres now run After Completion of Treatment Clinics for survivors in order to monitor them on an ongoing basis and pick up any signs of physical and emotional distress or academic challenges.

Many side-effects or issues that arise during cancer therapy disappear or become better over time post-treatment. However, for some children, there may be a few long-term adverse effects of the disease and its treatment, such as an amputation. In some cases, medical issues set in later. These are termed late effects. Childhood cancer patients who receive therapy during the crucial years of their developmental phases may experience long-term physical, psychological, and cognitive repercussions. Modifications to organs, tissues, and/or bodily processes are considered a few of the physical late effects that impact a child’s growth and development. Changes in the child’s memory, learning, and cognitive abilities are also a few of the late effects of the treatment.

Some cancer-treated children experience numerous physical side effects, whilst others experience very few. Depending on their age and when they were treated, some patients also go through alterations in their moods and feelings and struggle with social and emotional distress. Certain children tend to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Physical harm or extreme mental or emotional suffering might trigger this anxiety. Flashbacks related to diagnosis or treatment are among the symptoms of PTSD, as are avoiding locations that serve as memories of the event and feeling afraid, agitated, unable of falling asleep, or having trouble focusing.

There are many different paths that cancer survivors choose from, some may opt for traditional medical care, while others may seek out alternative or complementary treatments. Depending on who provides this care, the survivor population, the location of care, and/or the ability to provide particular services, many survivorship care models have developed.

Overcoming Challenges of Survivorship with:

Friends and Family: Parents might be viewed as the child’s primary advocates in pediatric treatment. They can identify their child’s requirements and may start using support options when necessary. As a result, parents play a crucial role in recognizing potential obstacles and are crucial to the reintegration process. Their perspectives and experiences are vital for the creation of psychological support programs. Critical elements in reducing psychological and emotional distress, and increasing the identification of long-term risks associated with cancer treatment, include parental knowledge, parental support, and education in survivorship care. In post-treatment clinical evaluations, health care practitioners should consider including elements like the evaluation 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 staying connected to school and classmates also facilitates easier re-entry to normal life for children.

Support Groups: It might be beneficial to seek advice from a qualified mental health expert to lower stress, improve coping and decision-making abilities, and enhance the overall quality of life. In support groups, families can exchange experiences and get knowledge from those who have gone through particular issues. Joining a local support group or online forum for childhood cancer survivors may be beneficial. There are also support groups for parents of children with cancer. Talking to a friend or a member of the medical staff is another option for getting help.

NGOs: Based on the cancer treatment summary, which includes a description of the therapies the child underwent and any potential long-term consequences, many NGOs assist in developing a Treatment Summary and Survivorship Care Plan. NGOs also play a part in providing post-cancer survivors with health education. One of the main objectives is to advise the families about healthy living, potential side effects of cancer treatments, and measures to avoid developing new health issues. Some survivors battle with feelings of loneliness, recurrence anxiety, and stress related to managing continuing medical requirements. Psychologists and social workers can help with these as well as other insurance and employment-related concerns.

Any survivorship program needs to be tailored to a child’s individual needs. The most important thing for cancer survivors is to advocate for themselves and their needs. It is 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). Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

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