When Your Child Has Cancer: Dealing With the Diagnosis
Hearing the news that your child has cancer can trigger a range of emotions. It is normal to feel shock, anger, fear, anxiety, and sadness. It is also normal to feel guilt—you may wonder why your child has cancer or if you could have changed the outcome somehow by doing (or not doing) something. Remember that, in many cases, it is difficult for even doctors to determine what caused the cancer. And when cancer affects children, the symptoms are not always clear and can mimic other, more common, childhood illnesses. The most important thing is to focus on what you can do right now to help your child.
During the diagnosis, your child’s doctor may run tests (called staging) to find out the type of cancer, where it is located, whether it has spread, and what body parts are affected. Staging helps determine the treatment plan. During this time, you might want to get a second opinion. If the diagnosis is confirmed, you can get more guidance as to what the next steps should be.
But when you are under extreme stress, it is hard to remember the right questions to ask, not to mention the doctor’s responses. What are some steps that you can take to feel more in control? For starters, keep a notebook handy and jot down questions. Take this notebook to appointments. Or use a recorder to capture your concerns and the doctor’s remarks. Another option is to have a family member or friend accompany you to appointments. They can offer support, ask questions, and be there to listen.
After the diagnosis, you need to gather as much information as you can about the treatment options. Some important questions include:
- What kind of treatment will it be?
- How long will it take?
- Where will it take place?
- Are there other options?
- Has the hospital or center treated other children with this form of cancer?
- How successful is the treatment?
- Is there an experimental treatment for this type of cancer?
Using a notebook or recorder or talking to a friend can help you absorb the information and give you a chance to review it when you get home.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.