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"Childhood Cancer Awareness Month" Focused on Treatment in NM, Nation

PHOTO: As part of "Childhood Cancer Awareness Month," the American Cancer Society is promoting the need for more resources to be dedicated for the emotional needs of children with cancer and their families. Photo credit: National Cancer Institute.
PHOTO: As part of "Childhood Cancer Awareness Month," the American Cancer Society is promoting the need for more resources to be dedicated for the emotional needs of children with cancer and their families. Photo credit: National Cancer Institute.
September 15, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The American Cancer Society is urging more resources be dedicated to caring for the overall well-being of child cancer patients and their families. Rebecca Kirch is director of quality of life and survivorship with the American Cancer Society, which is promoting "Childhood Cancer Awareness Month" in September.

Kirch says New Mexico gets a C grade in terms of hospitals providing "palliative" care. That means providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness, whatever the diagnosis.

"The American Cancer Society will be working with all of the hospitals and health systems in New Mexico to help bring palliative care everywhere, so that every adult and child facing serious illness receives the quality of life care they need," Kirch says.

Palliative care, according to Kirch, is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.

Kirch says palliative care is critical because research shows two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors endure debilitating symptoms that can continue into adulthood and even last a lifetime. She says children treated for brain tumors, a leading cancer in children, may experience seizures, weakness in the arms and legs, blindness, hearing loss and neurocognitive deficits.

"As we've seen more and more children surviving and growing into adulthood it's not without the expense of this impact on these other things," says Kirch.

More focus, according to Kirch, is being placed on trying to limit the severe side effects of treating pediatric cancer.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM