Good Prognosis for Cancer-Stricken Children

USA TODAY, October 1994 | Go to article overview

Good Prognosis for Cancer-Stricken Children


While the word "cancer" still sums up a grim specter of oftenfatal illness, the majority of children with the disease today are cured and will go on to lead full lives, with few aftereffects. However, they will need some special handling to re-integrate them into school and peer groups once they are declared cured, as well as long-term follow-up health assessments, cautions Daniel Plunket, a pediatric oncologist and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine-Tulsa.

Once cancer treatments have been discontinued and a child is declared cured, he or she often experiences an astonishing surge of well-being, activity, and weight gain. The change may surprise parents, siblings, and health professionals, but it is to be expected, Plunket explains. "Cancer treatment is incredibly rigorous. We have to literally poison the body with chemicals in order to kill the cancer cells. The treatment often seems worse than the disease, especially to the child. But once the medication is ceased, the child's hair grows back, physical symptoms stop, and he or she begins to look and act like what society perceives as normal. When a family has gotten used to a child being sick, this can be a very dramatic change."

Once physical health has improved, the youngster should be quickly and fully re-integrated into the school and social systems appropriate for his or her age. …

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