Where are children and teens with cancer treated?

Most children with cancer are treated at large pediatric cancer centers. And most take part in clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) through the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). Several medical facilities in the United States and abroad are members of COG and treat pediatric cancer patients. These treatment centers must follow strict guidelines to ensure that patients and families are fully informed about the potential value and risk of each clinical trial. Still, families do not have to enroll their child in a clinical trial and can choose instead to get the standard treatment. You can learn more about this in Clinical Trials: What You Need to Know, and you can learn how to find a COG hospital near you in Pediatric Cancer Centers.

When hospitalized, children and teens are treated in inpatient oncology units. Outpatient treatment (when the child is not in the hospital) may take place in hospital clinics, doctor’s offices, or even at home. When they are treated at home, patients usually get services from a home health agency. These services can include checking vital signs, giving chemo or medicines by vein, and other types of care. Home care staff may also teach family members to give drugs, manage equipment, and handle certain health problems.

Local pediatricians or family practice doctors may be involved in giving chemo, too. They may also take part in evaluating and treating symptoms, with guidance from the pediatric oncologist who is managing the child’s cancer treatment. This helps avoid long stays in the hospital. Every effort is made to have children go to school and continue their normal activities as much as possible while they are being treated.

How are children and teens with cancer treated?

Treatment depends on the type of cancer the child has, the stage of the cancer, the child’s age, overall health, and other factors. Cancer can be treated with chemo, radiation, surgery, or some combination of these. The doctor and other members of the cancer team will explain the treatments they recommend and answer questions before treatment starts. Treating childhood cancer often means consulting with medical specialists, especially if problems come up. Social, emotional, educational, and spiritual issues are also part of childhood cancer, and there are other specialists who can help patients and family with them. This is often called comprehensive care, and it’s discussed in the next section.

Keep in mind that the parent(s) or guardians must consent for the child’s treatment, which is why they usually want to learn all they can about the child’s cancer. If you’d like to know more about the type of cancer your child has, and about the treatments used, please call us. Or, you can find this information and more on our website at www.cancer.org.

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: December 17, 2014 Last Revised: November 11, 2015

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