Child Can­cer

No one is ever pre­pared to hear that their child has a life-threat­en­ing ill­ness. Here is how you can cope

Women's Weekly (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - For more in­for­ma­tion and to make an ap­point­ment, visit www.ram­saysimedarby.com or call 03-5639 1212.

Get to know the role of the pae­di­atric on­col­o­gist

For most par­ents, few things are as fright­en­ing as hear­ing the doc­tor tell you that your child has can­cer. While deal­ing with their own fears, they must also face the task of help­ing their child un­der­stand his or her di­ag­no­sis.

The Weekly spoke to Dr Chan Lee Lee, con­sul­tant paediatrician and pae­di­atric haema­tol­o­gist on what you need to know:

THE WORK OF A PAE­DI­ATRIC ON­COL­O­GIST

A pae­di­atric on­col­o­gist is a spe­cial­ist who is trained in the field of pae­di­atric hema­tol­ogy and on­col­ogy – so he or she looks af­ter chil­dren who have blood and can­cer dis­or­ders. Their work in­volves di­ag­nos­ing and treat­ing blood is­sues and can­cers which may oc­cur in chil­dren.

A DAY WITH THE PAE­DI­ATRIC ON­COL­O­GIST

An av­er­age day be­gins with do­ing ward rounds to treat in­pa­tients. The doc­tor then goes to the Day Care unit where pa­tients come for fol­low-up treat­ment.

Their work in­volves se­dat­ing kids in or­der to per­form in­ves­ti­ga­tions like bone mar­row ex­ams, do­ing lum­bar punc­tures or de­liv­er­ing in­tra­venous or in­tra­mus­cu­lar chemo­ther­apy.

Pa­tients who are not get­ting ac­tive chemo­ther­apy will usu­ally be looked af­ter dur­ing the reg­u­lar clinic fol­low-up.

SIGNS OF CAN­CER

The most com­mon can­cer in chil­dren is acute leukaemia. Symp­toms may in­clude in­ter­mit­tent fever, pal­lor, bone pains, dis­tended ab­domen or bruis­ing that oc­curs spon­ta­neously.

The gen­eral paediatrician will first as­sess the symp­toms to see if they are sig­nif­i­cant, as these may also ap­pear with other be­nign child­hood ill­nesses.

If the paediatrician finds that the neck glands are swollen or there is an en­larged liver and spleen with other symp­toms, they may re­fer you to the pae­di­atric on­col­o­gist for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Can­cer may also show up in the form of a lump oc­cur­ring, for ex­am­ple, in the neck, tummy or in part of a limb. Pain may not be an early symp­tom ei­ther.

When­ever an un­usual swelling oc­curs, par­ents should get the child ex­am­ined right away.

AD­VICE TO PAR­ENTS WHEN YOUR CHILD HAS BEEN DI­AG­NOSED WITH CAN­CER

Stay calm. Many child­hood can­cers have very good cure rates. Do not go “doc­tor shop­ping” or worse, turn to tra­di­tional medicines. The pae­di­atric on­col­o­gist will ex­plain how the di­ag­no­sis has been made and what treat­ment is re­quired. It is also vi­tal to fol­low the pre­scribed treat­ment.

In the un­likely event that in­suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion has been given, by all means seek a sec­ond opin­ion.

PAE­DI­ATRIC ON­COL­OGY FA­CIL­ITY

Since pae­di­atric can­cers are not all that com­mon, it is bet­ter to be treated in a pae­di­atric on­col­ogy unit as the med­i­cal per­son­nel will be fa­mil­iar with ways to deal with chil­dren. The finer de­tails of med­i­cal care for kids – such as how blood is taken for test­ing, how to se­date the child, how to give small vol­umes of med­i­ca­tion – re­quire ex­pe­ri­ence and a spe­cialised unit is bet­ter equipped to de­liver it. This will in­crease the over­all com­fort of the pa­tient as well.

ROLE OF YOUR CHILD’S PAEDIATRICIAN

Dur­ing the ac­tive treat­ment of a child with can­cer, the pae­di­atric on­col­o­gist be­comes the pri­mary care­giver and dou­bles up as the gen­eral paediatrician who can also ad­vise on the over­all treat­ment and health of the child.

Af­ter the treat­ment/chemo­ther­apy has been com­pleted and the child is on in­ter­mit­tent re­view and fol­low-up, only then does the gen­eral paediatrician re­sume his or her role in look­ing af­ter the com­mon child­hood ill­nesses.

Be care­ful about tak­ing al­ter­na­tive treat­ment where there is no sci­en­tific ba­sis or pub­lished re­sults to prove its ef­fi­cacy. In the end, your child’s health will be di­rectly af­fected by the de­ci­sions you make, so make them wisely.

Con­sider join­ing a sup­port group. Most hos­pi­tals who treat child­hood can­cers have their own groups. The Na­tional Can­cer So­ci­ety has a chap­ter which of­fers help to fam­i­lies and kids through Hospi­tal Kuala Lumpur.

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