Emotional and Social Issues in Children With Neuroblastoma

Most children with neuroblastoma are very young when they are diagnosed. Still, some children may have emotional or psychological issues that need to be addressed during and after treatment. Depending on their age, they may also have some problems with normal functioning and school work. These can often be overcome 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 during and after cancer treatment.

Parents and other family members can also be affected, both emotionally and in other ways. The family’s situation should be evaluated by the treatment center as soon as possible. Some common family concerns include financial stresses, traveling to and staying near the cancer center, the need for family members to take time off from work, 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. If family members have concerns, they can be addressed before they become a crisis. You can read more about financial concerns in our document Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Financial and Insurance Issues.

Centers that treat many patients with neuroblastoma may have programs to introduce new patients and their families to others who have finished their treatment. This can give parents an idea of what to expect during and after treatment, which is very important. Seeing another patient with neuroblastoma doing well is often helpful for the patient and family.

Many experts recommend 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 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.)

During treatment, children and their families tend to focus on the daily aspects of getting through it and beating the cancer. But once treatment is finished and as children who have had neuroblastoma grow older, a number of emotional issues can arise. Some of these might last a long time. They can include things like:

  • Dealing with physical changes or long-term side effects from the treatment
  • Worries about the cancer returning or new health problems developing
  • Feelings of resentment for having had cancer or having gone through treatment when others did 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 cancer, but for many survivors, the experience can eventually be positive, 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 anxiety or other emotional reactions 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, 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. If needed, doctors and other members of the health care team can often recommend special support programs and services to help children after cancer treatment.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: March 14, 2014 Last Revised: January 22, 2016

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