What Does the Future Hold?
Because of better research and treatment, children who have cancer are living longer than they used to, and their quality of life is better. Although they lead normal lives, survivors of cancer have some concerns that other people may not have. For example, they must take extra-special care of their health and may have problems obtaining insurance.
Ongoing Health CareRegular exams are very important after treatment for cancer. At these visits, your child receives both the health care needed by anyone your child's age and special care based on the type of cancer and treatments and current health.
In general, parents of children who have had cancer treatment should do the following.
- Schedule regular checkups. Children who have been treated for cancer usually return to the doctor every 3 to 4 months at first, and once or twice a year later on. Ask the doctor how often your child needs to return for followup exams.
- Be alert to signs of the possible return of cancer. Doctors have no way to tell for sure whether your child's cancer will return. If it does return, it could be weeks, months, or years after treatment ends. Talk with your child's doctor and treatment team about the chances of cancer returning and the signs of cancer's return.
- Be alert to signs of lasting effects of cancer treatment. Cancer treatment may cause side effects many years later. Some cancer treatments may affect your child's ability to have children in the future; affect how your child learns and grows physically; or increase your child's risk of developing a second type of cancer.
- Be tuned in to any problems your child may have in dealing with feelings about having had cancer, even years after treatment has ended. Once all the activity of treatment is over, some children suddenly fully realize what happened to them. It can be a very upsetting. At this point, they may need to talk about their feelings and may even need to see a counselor.
- Promote good health habits. Eating well and getting enough sleep and exercise will help your child feel better and be healthy.
To better understand your child's health care needs today and in the future, ask the doctor and treatment team.
You need information to continue to take care of your child's health. As your child gets older, he or she also will need this information. You may want to ask the doctor and treatment team the following questions:
- How often should my child have checkups?
- What are the signs of cancer's return or of long-term effects? How likely are they to occur?
- What changes may occur that are not danger signs?
- What kind of diet should my child follow?
- What are the choices for handling chronic pain, the return of cancer, or the long-term effects of therapy?
- What is the best way for me to talk with you about future concerns? (By phone? At a special appointment? At a regular office visit scheduled in advance to allow more time?)
- Who else is available to talk about specific problems?
Another concern of parents is what happens to health insurance coverage and costs after your child has had treatment for cancer. Your child is likely to continue to be covered under your current insurance, but you may have to pay more. If you change jobs or apply for a new policy, however, you may have trouble getting the new coverage for your child, and it may cost more. Older teenagers who may soon be leaving home and looking for a job need to pay special attention to insurance needs. Going off their parent's insurance will mean finding coverage on their own.
One key to making sure your child has insurance coverage is to ask the right questions before changing jobs and look at what your health insurance coverage will include if you change policies.