What are the emotional effects of childhood cancer?

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Answered by: Laura, An Expert in the Childhood Cancers Category
Childhood cancer takes more than just a physical toll on the child suffering from the illness. There are also a number of emotional effects to consider when treating a child with cancer.

Fear is a natural combatant when it comes to facing an enemy such as childhood cancer. It is unnatural for children to have to ponder on whether or not they will live the next day. As children, we typically view life as a never-ending adventure, not one that could end at any moment.

A child suffering from childhood cancer may also feel intense anger. This emotional response is normal. The object of the child's anger will differ depending on the circumstances. For instance, a child brought up in a religious home may blame his or her creator for allowing this to happen. The child may become angry at parents, friends, siblings, etc. An overwhelming sense of sadness or depression can also be an emotional effect from childhood cancer. This is due not only from the illness itself, but also from other factors such as not being able to attend school on a regular basis, periods of isolation, uncertainty about the future, and/or the inability to be physically active. During this time it is not unusual for the negative aspects of a child's life to far outweigh the positive. It is important to have any child suffering from childhood cancer to focus on the positive aspects of his or her life and make allowances when circumstances allow in order to aid the child in being as normal as possible in his or her daily routine.

The emotional effects of childhood cancer are in many ways as important to treat as the illness itself. Coping mechanisms can help children suffering from cancer learn to deal with day to day life. Child-Life Specialists and Childhood Psychologists are trained to help children cope and understand what is happening to them and why. If a child's oncologists does not suggest consulting a psychologist within the first two weeks after initial diagnosis, someone needs to advocate for the child. The sooner the child receives support for the emotional effects of childhood cancer, the sooner he or she can begin dealing with his or her situation effectively.

These emotional effects can also be displayed in other family members including siblings. It is important for caregivers to be vigilant to all those affected by the unwelcome appearance of childhood cancer. Many times siblings can be overlooked while parents or caregivers are focused on the child with the illness. The hospital staff generally consists of social workers who can aid in finding resources to help in a variety of ways, including resources to help siblings and other family members. If a parent or caregiver is uncertain who to speak to, he or she should simply ask the child's oncologist. The oncologist will be equipped with the information of the person who can help him or her.

While there are a variety of emotional effects caused by childhood cancer, there are also a variety of resources available to help the families of those suffering. The key concept to remember is to be vigilant not only with the child inflicted with the illness, but also with siblings and other individuals emotionally close to the child.

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