Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Understanding the Health Care System

When a child or teen is diagnosed with cancer, families and parents will face and need to cope with many problems. Here are ideas for navigating the health care system after your child’s diagnosis. This is one in a series for parents and loved ones of a child with cancer. The other pieces cover how to cope with the cancer diagnosis, returning to school, dealing with the late effects of treatment, and financial and insurance matters.

When a young person is diagnosed and treated for cancer, both the patient and the family enter the complex, and often frightening world of modern medicine. Hospitals and medical centers can be big, confusing places. Hospital rooms can be scary. Professionals and staff members have questions to ask, tests to do, and information to share. But medical terms can sound like a foreign language. There are endless forms to fill out. Insurance or managed care providers need to be called to check coverage, try to get approval for tests and procedures, or question payment for care.

But you can learn to deal with all these changes! With time and experience, you and your child will get to know the medical centers and other places treatment is given. You’ll learn the routes and figure out all the shortcuts from home to the hospital. You’ll find the cafeteria and spots that offer needed privacy. The staff members will become real people and some key relationships will form.