Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Understanding the Health Care System

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What is comprehensive care?

With most illnesses in teens and children, parents can rely on their own knowledge and skills, or those of the child’s doctor, for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. But cancer requires the help of a team of specialists trained to deal with different types of cancer and many types of treatment. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, bone marrow or stem cell transplant, and immunotherapy. Treating childhood cancer often means consulting with more medical specialists if any problems come up. Other specialists can also help patients and family members with the social, emotional, educational, and spiritual issues that are part of childhood cancer.

Comprehensive care is an approach that cares for the whole patient and all his or her needs, not just the medical and physical ones. Comprehensive care – using the services of many professionals working together – is the standard approach at all major medical centers that treat young people with cancer. The key aspects of well-designed comprehensive care are:

  • State-of-the-art medical diagnosis and treatment, including the chance to take part in clinical trials
  • A team of professionals who are experts in treating childhood cancer
  • A wide range of services for patients and families, including education, counseling, support groups, advocacy, and other special programs to help improve the quality of life of patients and their families
  • Resources to help meet basic needs, such as meals, a place to stay during treatment, and transportation
  • Patient and family education programs with up-to-date materials (written, audio, DVD, or computer programs)
  • School programs, including contact with classroom teachers, teachers who work with homebound or hospitalized students, and help with going back to the student’s neighborhood school
  • Organized efforts to help patients cope with treatment, tests, and procedures
  • Advocacy programs to help with families’ financial concerns about treatment and related costs
  • Consultation with community health care professionals (those near the child’s home)
  • Patient-friendly and family-friendly facilities
  • Ongoing research that looks at and evaluates the results of all treatments and services

Last Medical Review: 07/02/2012
Last Revised: 07/02/2012