Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Understanding the Health Care System

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Using psychosocial support services

Childhood cancer affects all aspects of family life. For this reason, the care is focused not only on the child, but also the child’s family and other parts of the child’s life. Most centers have a broad range of services and programs to support children and family members through the entire cancer experience. This includes diagnosis through treatment and even the months and years after treatment.

Having a child with cancer is usually a new experience for all family members. It can be very stressful, so it’s no surprise that families need education, support, and counseling to cope with it. All support services are optional, but parents are more likely to be more satisfied with their child’s overall care if they take advantage of what’s available.

Psychosocial help from the cancer team

Some of the common types of services available from psychosocial professionals on the team are:

Advocacy (including financial advocacy): helps children and families understand and manage the complex medical care system and identify and make use of programs, financial help, policies, and laws

Education: helps children and families learn about the normal social and emotional effects of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, about coping strategies, and about stress management and other helpful ways to get through this time

Supportive counseling: provides listening, empathy, and a way for children, parents, siblings, and other family members to express the feelings that result from the stress of cancer

Psychotherapeutic and behavioral interventions: help children and family members manage anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, feelings of depression, and other emotions. Sometimes they can help with even physical problems, for instance, the nausea that can happen before treatment medicines are given (anticipatory nausea)

Resource provision or referral: helps families get meals, lodging, transportation, and/or emergency assistance

Consultation: provides children and families with community-based psychosocial professionals for illness-related services


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