Social, emotional, and other issues in treating rhabdomyosarcoma
Most often, rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) develops during a very sensitive time in a young person’s life. A diagnosis of RMS and its treatment may have a profound effect on how a person looks and how they view themselves and their body. It can also affect how they do some everyday tasks, including certain school, work, or recreational activities. The effects are often greatest during the first year of treatment. It’s important that the treating center assess the family situation as soon as possible, so that any areas of concern can be addressed.
Some common family concerns include financial stresses, traveling to and staying near the cancer center, the possible loss of a job, and the need for home schooling. Many experts recommend that school-aged patients 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 these situations. In this program, health educators visit the school and tell students about the diagnosis, treatment, and changes that the cancer 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 RMS may have programs to introduce new patients to children or teens who have finished their treatment. This can give patients an idea of what to expect during and after treatment, which is very important. Seeing another patient with RMS doing well after treatment is often helpful. Support groups also might be helpful.
Although the psychological impact of this disease on children and teens is most obvious, adults with this disease face many of the same challenges. They should also be encouraged to take advantage of the cancer center’s physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling services.
Last Medical Review: 08/13/2013
Last Revised: 08/13/2013