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Childhood Cancer Running Header: CHILDHOOD CANCER TREATMENT

Childhood Cancer T:reatment: No Time for Division Llora Lacey ENGL112 Composition DeVry University Professor Victoria Berardi April 25, 2013

Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer Treatment: No Time for Division

While each child who is diagnosed with cancer has their own unique journey, some of those journeys end more quickly than an oncologist can complete treatment, and others survive to live a lifetime of adjusting to the effects of the treatment that saved their life. With cancer rates on the rise, many parents of a child with cancer are faced with crushing issues each step of the way. The medical profession seems to contradict itself in its approach and treatment of cancer, especially childhood cancer, where the patients are much more vulnerable than adults who are developmentally mature. One must consider what parents learn about cancer when their child is diagnosed, what treatments decisions they face for their child, and how different types of treatment present themselves. Standard medical care for treatment of childhood cancer lacks an approach that satisfies all aspects of a childs medical and developmental profiles that includes root causes or primarily treatable conditions, thus missing key opportunities for treatment and prevention. This is called an exclusionary approach by the medical profession because it alienates holistic forms of treatment (Healy, 2005). An inclusionary approach, or one that does not reject other considerations, adopted by the medical field in childhood cancer treatment is preferable and benefits the child, the primary caregiver and the level of treatment by creating a more comprehensive plan of action with accountability. What parents learn about cancer in children at diagnosis is general. For the purpose of demonstrating a position, the focus is treatment of blood cell cancers which is familiar to the author, as a mother of a ten year old son in a standard three year chemotherapy course for Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphatic Leukemia. Blood cancers attack at the very root of a patients health, the production of healthy blood cells which nourish and defend the entire body. From research, it is known that some genetic components exist in many patients, and often there are signs of genetic

Childhood Cancer

change that can be destroyed if mutation is caught early and treated with chemotherapy regimens. It is known that exposure to toxic substances, such as agricultural pesticides increase the likelihood that a child will develop cancer. Also known is that child can show signs of neurological disturbances as early as a year before a medical diagnosis of cancer and that the longer it takes to reach a remission, the greater the chances of relapse can be (Keene, 2010). The generally known information a parent receives at diagnosis is summarized by the blanket that whatever the causes are, they cannot be sure which ones are the real culprit, so the medical profession will focus on what it knows about treatment. The parent is left to become their childs own research team, learning all they can comprehend from medical sources, support systems for their family and child, and often, search engines to find fast answers to numerous new subjects. A list of things they begin to seek out include cancer terminology and medical research, treatment options, drug therapy, nutrition, side effects of treatment, genetic factors, and prognosis for the many specific conditions their child is faced with. Parents face a race against cancer, time and treatment. Parents rarely feel it is enough to be comfortable just accepting the unanswered questions and do nothing more than to subject their child to a prescription of aggressive treatment. They want to do anything they can to multiply their childs chances and strengthen them from the very beginning of the fight against cancer. One reason working together can benefit the child is because years of treatment can destroy so much of the childs regeneration capabilities that a bone marrow transplant becomes the last lifesaving option. These bone marrow transplants often do not succeed. They can be rejected, or secondary infections and side effects can kill a child with a weakened defense system (Keene, 2010). A healthy detoxification and regeneration of normal tissues is the first line of defense, especially in blood disorder cancers, not an assault with more highly toxic chemicals.

Childhood Cancer

Medical protocol is politically correct in handling parents, while protecting the administered treatment course from unnecessary variables. Understandably, this is the key reason that most of the suggestions and questions of parents are dismissed as vaguely as possible. There is still so much to learn and prove in the battle against cancer, so even known healthy substances become a threat and potentially interfere with effectiveness of cancer treatment drugs. For example, a child in chemotherapy, even without radiation, can only receive a vitamin supplement while their nutritional levels are being assaulted by chemotherapy drugs that contain no folic acid, which is important in development for the healthy mother and child. In treatment for cancer, everything a child consumes is reported, and then eliminated if any doubt of its effect on potency of treatment exists. New suggestions are often vetoed because its effects on drugs therapy are unclear. Parents begin to seek answers to their questions elsewhere because of the realization that all of their childs needs are not being treated equally. A virtual sea of options and alternative treatments begin to present themselves and parents are suddenly hearing theories and options the cautious medical professionals avoid skewing and simply steer around, for many reasons (National Cancer Institute, 2013). Standard treatment presents serious side effects. There are various current courses for treatment of cancer that include typical drugs known to assault and overcome cancer cells. The treatment program assigned a child is determined by the type of cancer, the tolerance of the drugs and other factors that affect the particular child. After the initial phase of emergency intervention, usually a week of heavy dosage and blood product administration, an extensive laboratory evaluation helps determine the factors, and one to three years of intensive treatment begin. The drugs used create secondary pathological conditions, which are then treated with

Childhood Cancer

symptom controlling drugs. The goal is to eliminate the cancer and then continue to control the childs biological responses to prevent relapse. Side effects, which include bone death, learning disabilities, vision, hearing, vocal, kidney and heart damage, ulcers, life-endangering pneumonia and fungal infections, secondary cancers, and neutropenic colitis, require careful monitoring and drug dosages require frequent adjustments for toleration and effectiveness (Keene, 2010). Parents begin to feel the pressure of decisions, settling into a routinely submissive obedience and a vigilant reporting system to monitor the childs every detail. This is important because the fear of harming their childs treatment can prevent them from seeking other avenues. Weekly appointments continue and after life-threatening secondary illnesses are overcome, parents learn to avoid any disruptions of what may be working in the protocol given their child. Often, a parent will shut out alternatives and become completely dependent on the oncology team treating their child. If they wish to try other methods, they must do so without disclosure to those treating their child and risk interference or failure of chemotherapy treatment. Asking if an alternative or corresponding treatment for their child is appropriate can open the door for scrutiny and distrust from the medical practitioners. (National Cancer Institute, 2013) If and when the child has survived and completed the two to three year regimen, the child is faced with a life time of developmental delays and secondary conditions so broad that none of their previous strengths can be assumed to be intact. Physical therapy, cognitive therapy, and psychological therapy are all a routine part of life. New ways children can be affected by cancer treatment are being discovered frequently as studies continue to be conducted. The psychological effects on parents having children with cancer have been studied as well, and the results of the experience are documented as post-traumatic stress disorder (Nordberg and Boman, 2013).

Childhood Cancer

Choices that were made during treatment can be doubted and fear of having made wrong decisions can be persistent. Creating an inclusive approach is beneficial. If the medical profession used a thoroughly methodical analysis and planned treatment course that addresses and includes the principles that holistic practitioners support, such as building the immune system through nutrition, the treatment of childhood cancer could take on an entirely new level of effectiveness, and even decrease the exposure to chemotherapy drugs that damage the childs developing systems and create fewer long term disabilities. An example of how the medical professional handles inquiries is exemplified by this University of Texas MD Anderson clinics quote in an article regarding the Gerson approach to cancer treatment. It contains the common response that, For all studies of dietary therapies, an assessment of compliance with the regimen is a challenging, but necessary task. (University of Texas, 2013) If the medical profession can become more actively involved in the process facing the parent, the bond of trust between the treatment team and the parent can remain strong enough to support a plan that incorporates every decision and provides up-to-date reasoning and information. All parents really want to do is create the optimum health and potential outcome for their child, which resonates with the holistic ideas. Working together, or an inclusionary approach, can prevent the failure of the treatment process by encouraging complete disclosure on the part of parents and medical professionals. If the medical professionals use this inclusive approach, the holistic views existing could not cite that they are simply being ignored by the medical profession because it is lucrative to prescribe drugs and treat secondary conditions (National Institutes of Health, 2013). Polarization of the two views add stress and promote the breakdown of the relationship between the parent and the medical team which ultimately puts the

Childhood Cancer

child at more risk and weakens the quality of care the child receives by both the parents and the medical team. The medical fields approach is exclusionary because it has taken the position that if they cannot identify the true causes then they will use the best pharmaceutical methods to kill the cancer, and treat the killing of other biological processes that arise from chemically annihilating cancer cells. By distrusting other approaches as a defense, the medical profession takes the position that while they may not makes claims against other forms of treatment, if there is a remote possibility of interference with prescribed chemotherapy, alternate treatment is excluded. In other words, they maintain a political correctness whenever possible, but never address possibilities of regeneration through other treatments. The holistic approach is inclusionary, and maintains that cancer cannot be produced in an ideal biological environment and many natural substances exist to enhance the complete health and wellness of a child that could prevent or reverse cancer growth (Webster, 2013). But just as the medical approach does, the holistic view distrusts other approaches as a defense, asserting that the medical profession is enriched by that maintaining they do not have proof of the effectiveness of alternative treatments, because it is advantageous to prescribe a treatment plan that supports the welfare of its own medical professionals and its pharmaceutical industry (National Institutes of Health, 2013). It also suggests that keeping a child in treatment for the secondary illnesses, often called somatic sequelae in medical research terminology (Ermen, Todorovski, & Jereb, 2012), further profits the monetary gains of medical professionals. This view strengthens the division of two groups offering their brand of expertise to parents and children facing cancer.

Childhood Cancer

The polarization affects the outcome of treatment by leaving the biochemical and causation questions unanswered, and essentially, the medical profession is encouraging parents to seek treatment outside of the approval of oncologists and put traditional medical treatment at risk or excluding it altogether. If a complete approach were used by the medical profession, parents could bring all their questions to the medical care team and see each facet of their childs development addressed before life threatening complications arise and unsafe practices are embraced. Consider that a parent who has just received the news their child has a diagnosis of cancer goes from the frying pan into the fire and their precious child is the main course. Such a harsh metaphor is mild from the view point of a parent searching out help for their child only to realize the answer to their questions has become almost entirely an invasive mission to kill what has invaded their childs body. What survives in the fire is the hope they do not have to kill their own child in the process when the questions as to how and why their child has cancer are answered with many vague responses. The medical professionals are skilled in delivering accurate information about chemotherapy drugs with the most ethical sensitivity possible, but the best methods of explanation produce a long list of we do not know for sure answers and side effects are downplayed. Medical treatment focuses on prevention of chemotherapy failure, in contrast, holistic approaches focus on prevention of cancer itself. If we eliminate the polarization of approaches by bringing every aspect to light and treating them as key components within a team, it ends warring against one another. In conclusion, an inclusionary method is united, and the medical professions approach of holding the hands of parents in a difficult transitionary period going into the treatment of a child

Childhood Cancer

with cancer is not the strong kind of answers parents need to make decisions for the life of their child, long or short term. It avoids tackling the bigger issues like a solution to cancer, and can create long term obstacles to optimum treatment and the prevention of relapse because it denies dealing with treatable underlying causes or building optimum health in the midst of a childs disrupted development. Just like we have a United Nations, incorporating a round table of standards and including holistic views in research could bring all the cultures of treatment into a safe standard of living with cancers acquaintance, and give families touched by a childs cancer all the best options.

Childhood Cancer

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References

Complementary and Alternative Medicines in Cancer Treatment (Last Modified 2013) National Cancer Institute Website at The National Institutes of Health http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cam-cancer-treatment/patient/page2 Ermen, N., Todorovski, L., & Jereb B. (2012). Late somatic sequelae after treatment of childhood cancer in Slovenia, BMC Research Notes, 5254, doi: 10, 1186/1756-0500-5254 Healy, Bernadine, M.D. (2005). The Tyranny of Experts. U.S. News & World Report, 138(24), 53. Keene, Nancy (2010). Childhood Leukemia: A Guide for Families, Friends & Caregivers, Fourth Edition, Childhood Cancer Guides, Bellingham, WA. OReilly Publishing, Sebastopol, CA, Copyright 2010 Kehr, R. Webster (2013). Cancer Tutor: The Future of Cancer Treatments Website. Independent Cancer Research Foundation, http://www.cancertutor.com/ Nordberg, A., & Boman, K., (2013). Mothers and fathers of children with cancer: loss of control during treatment and posttraumatic stress at later follow up, Psycho-Oncology, 22(2), 324-329, doi: 10, 1002/pon.2091 University of Texas (2013) MD Anderson Cancer Center Website. Making Cancer History, http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/resources-for-professionals/clinicaltools-and-resources/cimer/therapies/nutrition-and-special-diets/gerson-scientific.html