Definition and Overview
Paediatric oncology consultation is a meeting between an oncologist (a doctor who specializes in cancer treatment) and the parents or guardians of young patients (from newborn to 21 years old) who are suffering from cancer.
Cancer is a disease that is characterized by the abnormal division of cells, which can form tumors and travel to various tissues in the body. This can affect anyone, although some have certain risks that increase the possibility of developing the disease, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Among children, cancer is actually rare and affects 15,000 individuals per year.
The types of cancer that normally affect children are different from those of adult. These include leukemia, lymphoma, brain cancers, retinoblastoma, and osteosarcoma (or cancer of the bone). The survival rate of children with cancer varies and depends on multiple factors such as age, stage of cancer, treatment available and provided, and overall health condition of the patient.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Paediatric oncology consultation is necessary for:
Children who have been diagnosed with cancer – Children and young adults who have been diagnosed with cancer, usually by their primary care provider, are referred to an oncologist so treatment protocols can be started as soon as possible.
Children who need a second opinion – A cancer diagnosis is daunting for both parents and children. Before they seek treatment such as chemotherapy or surgery), they want to make sure that the diagnosis is correct. Thus, it is normal for parents to seek a second or even third opinion from other paediatric oncologists.
Those who are already undergoing treatment – Regular consultation with a paediatric oncologist is essential to assess the effectiveness of the treatment. If expected results are not being achieved, certain changes or adjustments will be made.
Children who have completed their treatment – Patients who survive childhood cancers may need to work with their oncologist for several years following remission to ensure that cancer does not come back or if it does, it is treated promptly.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Since this is a consultation, the patient needs to be referred by a doctor, who is normally the paediatrician. Around this time, the needed tests have already been carried out, and all the medical records are forwarded to the chosen paediatric oncologist.
Oncologists usually work in the hospital, although they may also maintain their own clinic. For ease and comfort, it is best to work with doctors in the hospital as the necessary equipment and services are more readily available.
The paediatric oncologist will then:
- Review the medical records, including the family and personal medical history of the patient
- Conduct an interview
- Present ideal treatments based on the stage, kind of cancer, age, and health of the patient (treatments may include medications, lifestyle change, clinical trials, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiotherapy)
- Coordinate with the oncology team, which may include a radiologist, hematologist and a pathologist
- Discuss what to expect during and after treatment, as well as risks and complications of the procedure
- Talk about after-care or follow-up sessions
Possible Risks and Complications
A good part of the consultation is all about establishing a relationship with the paediatric oncologist. However, there are cases when this does not come easy as children are involved. While parents can answer on behalf of their children, young patients may become evasive and uncomfortable discussing their pain and other concerns with their doctors. In the process, this may prevent the doctor from effectively performing his duties, such as developing the most ideal treatment plan. Finding the right doctor to work with can also be frustrating for both the parent and the patient.
*American Cancer Society. Children diagnosed with Cancer: Understanding the Health Care System. Available at: www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002596-pdf.pdf. Accessed 08/27/2015.
*American Cancer Society. Pediatric cancer center information: Finding and Paying for Treatment. Available at: www.cancer.org/treatment/findingandpayingfortreatment. Accessed 08/27/2015.