The day promotes increased appreciation and deeper understanding of issues and challenges impacting childhood cancer and the survivors. It also spotlights the need for more equitable and better access to treatment and care for all children with cancer, everywhere.
We believe that children and families faced with a cancer diagnosis should be provided with the very best care possible and should never have to walk this difficult journey alone. They must be provided with the support of people who fully comprehend the challenges they will face and are trained to do everything possible to ease the burden the disease bestows on the affected children and those that love them.
Through ignorance and lack of training, there are still critical gaps in the palliative care response to children with cancer. Too many medical professionals hold on to the mythical belief that palliative care is only appropriate when all curative measures have failed, leading to patients and families missing out on the comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate care that a palliative team provides, irrespective of the outcome of the treatment.
ICPCN strongly recommends the following:
- That a palliative care team be introduced to the child and the family at the earliest possible time after diagnosis. Doing this ensures that the child’s quality of life is enhanced through adequate pain and symptom management and that they are provided with relevant support and therapies to help them come to terms with their illness and its possible outcome. Palliative care also addresses any social, psychological and spiritual issues the child and family members face at this difficult time.
- Children with cancer should be provided with the best possible treatment to ensure that their pain and distressing symptoms are addressed. Barriers to this can include the stigma which still exists with prescribing, dispensing and using opiates for children. A concerted effort needs to be made to overcome the stigma that is associated with the use of opioids in the treatment of pain in children. In addition, the lack of pain relief medications, such as morphine and opioids, in paediatric formulations needs to be addressed.
- Health authorities around the world recognise the value of palliative care in the treatment of children with cancer. Referral to a children’s palliative care team should become a standard response to a child’s cancer diagnosis.
- That children’s palliative care be integrated into all public health systems, that specific policies be developed, that funds are allocated and relevant training is provided. We believe that this will ensure that a child with a cancer diagnosis is given the best chance to experience a better quality of life throughout the duration of their illness, and, should treatment fail to cure the disease, that the child and family will be provided with compassionate and qualified support at the end of life and during the period of bereavement.
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