Children with Cancer: The Quality of Life

Children with Cancer: The Quality of Life

Children with Cancer: The Quality of Life

Children with Cancer: The Quality of Life

Synopsis

Cancer is a very rare disease in children. There have been impressive gains in survival in recent years, and these have been achieved through the use of chemotherapy and national and international clinical trials. The diagnosis of cancer in a child imposes considerable stress on the whole family. In the immediate time after diagnosis, parents must learn about the disease and its treatment, explain what is happening to the child, and make arrangements for the care of other children in the family. For the child, treatment is associated with many side effects depending on the specific drugs used. In addition, the child is prone to infection and therefore is likely to miss a lot of school and other activities. For all these reasons, physicians and families have become aware that cancer has huge implications for the quality of the child's life. This book is an attempt to describe how quality of life is affected at different stages of the disease process. Comprehensive reviews are provided of the impact on the child's physical activity, social life, and school and educational achievements. Special consideration is given to children with leukemia (one of the more common cancers) and brain tumors. Cancer does not just affect the child but every member of the family. Consequently there is coverage of the effects on parents and also healthy brothers and sisters. To the extent that improvements in survival have been achieved by national and international collaboration between clinicians, it is concluded that efforts to improve the quality of these children's lives is dependent on collaboration between clinicians, nurses, and behavioral scientists at national and international levels. This book should provide an impetus for such collaboration.

Excerpt

Cancer in children is a very rare disease. Because it is so rare, many people know almost nothing about it, and assume that a diagnosis is effectively a death sentence. One reason for writing this book is to increase public awareness of the progress that has been made in treating childhood cancer. A diagnosis of cancer in children is very frightening, but does not carry the death sentence it once did. There is good news, as well as bad, about the disease.

How can news of childhood cancer be good? Before the 1950s, there was virtually no effective treatment, and children were likely to die within weeks of diagnosis. New treatments introduced in the 1950s and 1960s brought renewed optimism. Over a relatively brief period of time, survival improved from virtually none to approximately 50% (C. M. Robertson, Hawkins, & Kingston, 1994). These trends have continued, and current statistics suggest that up to 80% of children with cancer can be cured. The good news, then, is that with modern treatments, many children can be treated, and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.

The Bad News

Improving survival statistics is excellent news. However, survival often comes at a price. During the course of treatment, many children experience difficulties and restrictions in almost all areas of their lives. They can . . .

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