Comprehensive Cancer Care for Pediatric Patients and Families

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By Winston Huh, M.D., assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics, MD Anderson

child life.jpgI truly believe that cancer is a family diagnosis that not only is physically disruptive, but also exacts a heavy mental and emotional toll for all involved. As families try to adjust their lives and schedules, the rest of the world seems to continue at a frenetic pace. Things such as school work and important social activities can get lost in the shuffle of clinic appointments, radiology scans and hospital admissions.

Thus, the treatment of cancer is much more than simply giving chemotherapy or administering radiation therapy. What good is my therapy if a patient missed so much school that he or she had to drop out? As a pediatric oncologist my goal is to not only cure my patients, but to also do what I can to help the patient and family reintegrate back into life.

One of the great achievements of the Children's Cancer Hospital at MD Anderson is the development of many wonderful ancillary programs that address the needs of patients and families faced with the issue of cancer care.  The Pediatric Education and Creative Arts Program is a comprehensive educational program that meets the academic needs of our patients across a broad range of ages and cultural backgrounds. The Creative Arts Program also provides a therapeutic outlet for our patients through expression using various innovative creative arts techniques.

Our Child Life Program has a wonderful Sibling Program recognizing the special needs of siblings of cancer patients. Many siblings have difficulty expressing their feelings during the cancer care process, and programs such as the Beads of Courage educate and involve siblings and provide a tangible and artistic outlet.

The Caregivers Advocating and Navigating (C.A.N.) Workshops are monthly activities that address important topics identified by families. These workshops have discussed relationship issues, problems at school and advocating for your child in the hospital setting. These are a few examples of our efforts to help patients and families navigate this difficult journey not only during their cancer treatment, but also beyond therapy.

MD Anderson is a comprehensive cancer center, and the Children's Cancer Hospital is a perfect example of providing "comprehensive cancer care."

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