In Part 1 of this series we explained that this series of articles is not meant to be medical advice, but a guide that may help you as a parent of a newly diagnosed child with cancer cope just a bit better. Information is knowledge, and never more so than when you are dealing with childhood cancer!
These articles are meant to help you be the key part of your child’s treatment that you will need to be. Take what works for you according to your situation and your child’s temperament, personality, fears, strengths, and how they deal with adversity, and leave what does not pertain to your situation.
Part 6 will deal with Complementary and Alternative Medicine treatment (CAM).
Childhood Cancer Treatment
Treatment for childhood cancer is not the same for every patient; a treatment plan is drawn up for each individual according to various factors.
Your child’s doctor and oncology treatment team will collaborate to draw up a treatment plan based on the type of cancer, the stage of the disease, your child’s general health, your child’s age, and various other factors.
Once the team has all the facts, a detailed treatment plan will be drawn up, outlining the exact treatment your child will receive, how often the treatment will be given, and how long the treatment will last.
Treatment plans are strictly individualised, so even children with the same type of cancer may not get exactly the same type of treatment. The oncology team will monitor your child’s response to the treatment, and may change the treatment plan if it seems that the treatment is not working effectively; they may even change the type of treatment completely.
Cancer is not an easy disease to treat, and unfortunately some of the treatments used cause unpleasant or unwanted side-effects such as hair loss, nausea, and diarrhoea. Side effects happen because unfortunately some of the cancer treatments not only kill the cancer cells but can also damage some of the healthy cells.
Bear the following in mind as your child starts their cancer treatment:
- Your child’s doctor will plan the treatment so that your child has as few side effects as possible;
- The type of side effects your child experiences and how bad they are will depend on the kind of drug used, the dosage given, and the way your child’s body reacts;
- There are various ways to lessen your child’s side effects. Talk to the treatment team about things that can be done before, during, and after treatment to make your child more comfortable;
- Sometimes the team may decide to lower the treatment dosage slightly to help lessen or even eliminate unpleasant side effects. This will generally not make the treatment less able to destroy cancer cells or hurt your child’s chances of recovery; and
- Most side effects go away soon after treatment ends.
Not every child will suffer side-effects, and some children get very few. Side-effects will differ from child to child, even those who are receiving the same treatment. Your child’s doctor will be able to tell you what side-effects you can expect your child to possibly have based on the treatment plan, and how to deal with them should they occur.
In the previous article we dealt with Bone Marrow and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplants and all it entails; part 6 of this series of articles will deal with Complementary and Alternative Medicine treatment (CAM) as a treatment for your child’s cancer and all it entails.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatment (CAM)
Many individuals, especially these days, are seeking alternative ways of fighting cancer or are opting for complementary methods of dealing with their child’s illness.
It is natural to want to use any method available to fight the cancer, but there is a lot of information out there, not all of it genuine or tested. This article serves to assist you in getting some idea of what Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is; to help you to understand what the various methods entail; and hopefully to make it easier to decide whether CAM is right for your child.
CAM does not work for everyone, but some methods may help your child manage stress, nausea, pain, or other symptoms or side effects.
What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)?
Any medical system, practice, or product that is not thought of as standard care falls under the heading Complementary and Alternative Medicine. For cancer, this includes chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy, and surgery.
While the terms “complementary medicine,” “alternative medicine,” “integrative medicine” are generally used to describe the array of health care approaches with a history of use or origins outside of mainstream medicine, the differences between them are difficult for many to understand.
- Complementary medicine is used together with standard medical treatments.
- An example of Complementary Medicine is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.
- Alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical treatments.
- An example of Alternative Medicine is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of a method that a cancer specialist (an oncologist) suggests.
- Integrative Medicine is a total approach to care that involves the patient’s mind, body, and spirit. It combines standard medicine with the CAM practices that have shown the most promise.
- An example of Integrative Medicine is learning to use relaxation as a way to reduce stress during chemotherapy.
Other terms that are often used to describe CAM are “natural,” “holistic,” “home remedies,” or “Eastern medicine.”
The boundaries between complementary, conventional, and integrative medicine overlap and change with time:
- An example of this is massage and guided imagery, both of which were once seen as complementary or alternative but which are now regularly used in some hospitals and medical practices to assist with pain management.
- Another example is the acupuncture and meditation that is used by many hospitals and private citizens to help manage symptoms and side effects of conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
It is important to stress here that before using any form of alternative, complementary or integrative medicine, you should discuss it with your child’s doctor. Fortunately more and more doctors these days are seeing the benefits of using CAM in the fight against cancer of all types.
It is also important that you ALWAYS inform your child’s oncology team of ANY exercise programmes, multivitamin use, all medications, dietary supplements, vitamins, and herbal remedies your child may use, as some supplements may interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy, radiation, or prescription cancer medications.
Remember, if you are not sure of anything, speak to a professional on your child’s oncology treatment team; they will be only too glad to help give you information or allay any fears you or your child may have regarding the treatment.
You are not alone in this; there are many individuals out there able and willing to lend a hand, some support, or even just listen – do not be afraid to reach out for help!
Do some research on the internet, reach out to an organisation like Little Fighters Cancer Trust for a bit of support and information and/or access to resources that will help you find out more and make an informed decision regarding your child’s treatment.
Part VI (i) of this series will deal with “Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)”