Cancer in children is not very common. Only about one percent of cancers diagnosed in the United States are in children so community doctors usually have limited knowledge of pediatric cancer treatment. This is why almost all children with cancer in the United States receive treatment through one of the children’s cancer centers that make up the Children’s Oncology Group. Seattle Children’s, a Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) parent organization, is one of these centers.
The dedication of the SCCA pediatric cancer team means your child or teenager will receive a special quality of care. Ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report and Child magazines, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric referral center for Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.
Seattle Children’s and SCCA see more than 200 new pediatric cancer patients a year. These young patients have access to the latest cancer therapies and treatments, many of which are based on research breakthroughs at our three parent organizations: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington (UW) Medicine, and Seattle Children’s.
How to Help Your Teen
Research has found that teenagers with cancer, despite their size and maturity, do better if they are given treatment plans designed for children and treated by pediatric oncologists, rather than being treated as adults.
Another advantage of bringing your teen to Seattle Children’s and SCCA is that your teenager will not have to change cancer centers, or in some cases even doctors, as he or she gets older. We provide continuity of care through the teenage years and into adulthood. Read Becky’s story.
Generally, teenagers need autonomy and space. But when facing a serious illness like cancer, they may also need their parents in a way that they haven’t for years. An independent college student who has been happily living away from home may want a parent to sleep in her bed when she is in the hospital, for example. However, feeling dependent on you again may cause mixed emotions in your teen.
Parents of teenagers who have cancer can help their children by:
- Involving them in their medical care, including taking care of Hickman lines and giving shots at home. Encourage teens to do these things for themselves if they want to, but don’t insist.
- Involving them in decision-making.
- Reminding them that the cancer is not their fault. They did not do anything to cause it.
- Consulting child life specialists and social workers if you find it difficult to talk to your teen. You may need some help understanding how teenagers respond to a cancer diagnosis.
- Being aware that many teens try to protect their parents during this time, so your teen may not be telling you how he or she really feels.
How to Help the Rest of the Family, Including Yourself
The whole family is affected when a child has cancer. You may find your emotions overwhelming at times, and the disruptions in family routines and your extra attention to the sick child may upset your other children as well.
These support services at Seattle Children’s are here to help: