Social and emotional issues during and after treatment of childhood leukemia
Social and emotional issues can come up both during and after treatment. Factors such as the child’s age and the extent of treatment can play a role here.
Some children have emotional issues that need to be addressed during and after treatment. Depending on their age, they might also have some problems with daily activities and school work. These can often be helped with support and encouragement. Doctors and other members of the health care team can also often recommend special support programs and services to help children after treatment.
Many experts advise that school-aged children attend school as much as possible. This can help them maintain a sense of daily routine and keep their friends informed about what is happening.
Friends can be a great source of support, but patients and parents should know that some people have misunderstandings and fears about cancer. Some cancer centers have a school re-entry program that can help. In this program, health educators visit the school and tell students about the cancer, its treatment, and changes that the patient may go through. They also answer any questions from teachers and classmates. (For more information, see our document Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Returning to School.)
Centers that treat many patients with leukemia often have programs to help new patients meet children or teens who have finished their treatment. This can give patients an idea of what to expect during and after treatment, which can be very important.
Parents and other family members can also be affected, both emotionally and in other ways. Some common family concerns during treatment include financial stresses, traveling to and staying near the cancer center, the possible loss of a job, and the need for home schooling. Social workers and other professionals at cancer centers can help families sort through these issues.
During treatment, children and their families tend to focus on the daily aspects of getting through it and beating the leukemia. But once treatment is finished, a number of emotional concerns can arise. Some of these may last a long time. They can include things like:
- Dealing with physical changes that can result from the treatment
- Worries about the leukemia returning or new health problems developing
- Feelings of resentment for having had leukemia or having to go through treatment when others do not
- Concerns about being treated differently or discriminated against (by friends, classmates, coworkers, employers, etc.)
- Concerns about dating, marrying, and having a family later in life
No one chooses to have leukemia, but for many childhood leukemia survivors, the experience can have positive effects, helping to establish strong self-values. Other survivors may have a harder time recovering, adjusting to life after cancer, and moving on. It is normal to have some fear or other emotions after treatment, but feeling overly worried, depressed, or angry can affect many aspects of a young person’s growth. It can get in the way of relationships, school, work, and other aspects of life. With support from family, friends, other survivors, mental health professionals, and others, many people who have survived cancer can thrive in spite of the challenges they’ve had to face.
Last Medical Review: 11/11/2013
Last Revised: 02/03/2014