According to the National Cancer Intelligence Network there is currently 10,000 children under the age of 14 living with cancer in the UK. Recent figures also show cancer affects boys more than girls, and the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in children is leukemia. Scientists suggest children born through fertility treatments were 33% more likely to develop cancer. In support of this, children born as a result of IVF are 3 times more likely to develop cancer.
Research shows children who survive cancer however are still at risk of developing further complications. These problems can range from growth and development problems, lung and heart conditions, secondary cancers and other health issues. In addition to the physiological complications experienced above by cancer survivors, social complications are also apparent. Macmillan explains children who survive cancer may find it difficult to integrate back into social settings, such as schooling. The experience the individuals have been through has a detrimental effect on all aspects of their life. A recent survey, completed by the parents of cancer survivors, found 18% of children felt they had lost confidence when at school prior to the illness onset. In addition, almost half of parents believed their child had eventually grown apart from their class mates. Children also experienced increased levels of anxiety after cancer treatments. On the parents behalf, survey results showed unsatisfactory behaviour from the schools in which the children were attending. Parents explained how they felt teachers at the institutions were not providing adequate support for the children. The illness has resulted in many of the children losing out on schooling hours, parents feel the support made available to their children in order to catch up was very poor.
Another survey conducted by a charity, who focuses mainly in cancer research, suggests children with cancer and cancer survivors in primary school are being bullied, losing friends and missing out on vital education. Most children undergoing treatment for cancer also face the negative side effects of the medication. Some common side effects are hair and weight loss. Results suggest it is these side effects that are the main causes of the bullying in primary school.
None the less, cancer survival rates for children has in fact increased significantly over the past 40 years. This is due to the fact that there has been increasingly considerable access to superior treatments. New treatments are constantly researched daily in order to develop more cures, with the hope that these developments will eventually eliminate such disease completely.
Even though children face the numerous difficulties mentioned above, whilst undergoing treatment or after treatment, there are many ways to support those children. For example charities such as Macmillan and Cancer Research show support for those involved in treatment, as well as continued support after treatment has ended. This enables the child to understand that they are not going through this experience alone. Here at hchr we feel our healthcare staff should also implement the caring nurture the charities above follow. This can then be applied to our healthcare staff’s own clients in the workplace, allowing them to flourish in their new position.
Written By: Kelly Walker