Pediatric cancer is a disease that afflicts an entire family. The threat that cancer poses to a family is enormous, most especially for the child in treatment. Psychosocial care is a necessary part of any pediatric cancer treatment plan as families experience a wide range of stresses. The introduction of psychosocial care with prescribed treatment can increase management of symptoms, increase adherence to treatment, and provide better outcomes and quality of life. It goes beyond the time the child is in active treatment. The “ask” is for funds to assist hospitals in implementing the established evidence based standards.
Psychosocial Program Needs (both short and long term):
- For children and families, address the physical and emotional pain, symptoms, and stress of cancer to increase quality of life.
- Consistent psychological evaluations for all members of the family:Siblings of pediatric cancer patients are at higher risk for emotional and behavioral difficulties.
- Parents exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder during and after completing treatment.
- Patient outcomes are improved with positive emotional support.
- Anticipate possible treatment-related disabilities related to toxicity of specific drugs and surgery.
- Plan for survivorship issues, including late term effects of treatment and long-term follow-up care.
- Definitive psychosocial standards of care and funding for hospitals to institute psychosocial policies.
- Educational considerations and supplements to keep patients in treatment current in school.
- Assistance for transportation, meals, and lodging for family members away from home with their child.
Funds designated for psychosocial programs are used to provide families with access to counseling services, including psychiatric care and support-group activities as well as preparations for future visits and check-ins. Development of long-term psychosocial goals help prepare patients to look forward to, and to aid in the process of, survivorship. Psychosocial care is needed throughout the cancer trajectory, which includes end of life and bereavement care.