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Supportive care for children with cancer

Journal title
Seminars in oncology
Publication year
van de Wetering, M. D.; Schouten-van Meeteren, N. Y.

In developed countries the survival rate of children with cancer exceeds 75%. Optimal supportive care is necessary to deliver the burdensome treatment protocols. As the intensity of primary treatment has escalated, so have the side effects like myelosuppression and infection. Children who receive aggressive chemotherapy have an approximately 40% chance of experiencing a febrile episode during neutropenia. Patients should be treated with intravenous broad-spectrum antibiotics even if they have been assessed as low risk. There is no proof of the usefulness of special measures concerning food products during neutropenia. In contrast to adults, most children who receive chemotherapy will have a central venous catheter inserted (>/= 80-90%). The two most important complications are infections and thrombosis. The Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) guideline in adult oncology is available to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting. In highly emetogenic chemotherapy, the combination of a serotonin receptor antagonist plus a corticosteroid should be used. Pain in children with cancer is mainly therapy- or procedure-related. As in adults, the stepladder of the World Health Organization (WHO) is used as a guideline for adequate treatment of pain. It is of utmost importance that children receive optimal pain management during the initial procedures. Sedation is performed in many different ways. Palliative care starts with information about the incurability of the disease for parents, the patient, and the professionals involved. Children in palliative care for progressive cancer should be at home as much as possible, even in the terminal phase. The organization of health care and the facilities differ at a national level, so the requirements and choices for optimal care vary by country. Palliative care has to be incorporated into the structural base in the training of pediatricians and pediatric nurses. The first goal of palliative care is to reduce distressing symptoms. During the whole period of palliative care stepwise withdrawal and withholding of treatment options are important issues. The multidisciplinary approach should also span the broad field of psychosocial issues covering both the child’s and the caregiver’s specific psychosocial needs. Continuity of care is also depicted by contacts afterwards during family bereavement.

Research abstracts