Family-Centered Cancer Care

The diagnosis of cancer brings with it tremendous implications for the patient, the parents and siblings. For the Hematology/Oncology staff, dealing with the emotional needs of children and their families is as important as dealing with the physical and medical needs of the patient. To help families cope, every new cancer patient is engaged by a team that consists of a social worker, psychologist if necessary, and child life specialist soon after receiving their child’s diagnosis. Through regular meetings with the patient and family, the entire medical team is able to anticipate potentially stressful situations and help the family manage them successfully. This overall approach is unique to pediatric cancer centers versus adult cancer centers and benefits the patient and the members of their extended support system.

Support programs developed by the Hematology/Oncology staff to help families cope with their child’s disease and treatment include Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion Day, SIBS (Significantly Important Brothers and Sisters) Day, a summer camp, and educational conferences for families of children with sickle cell disease. Through Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion Day, families with children who have received bone marrow transplants are introduced and encouraged to share their experiences.

To help siblings cope with a brother or sister who has cancer, the Hematology/Oncology staff developed SIBS Day. On SIBS Day, siblings are encouraged to come to the hospital to meet physicians, tour the hospital and participate in special child life activities. In addition, an annual conference is held at the hospital to provide families of children with sickle cell disease with the most current information about this chronic disease.

To foster normal growth and development, children who currently have or previously had cancer or blood diseases are encouraged to attend a special summer camp that is coordinated by Children’s Hematology/Oncology Division. In this non-medical setting, children with cancer and blood diseases are able to experience a normal camping adventure, share their experiences with other children, develop independence and make new friends.