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Ways to support families navigating a childhood cancer diagnosis

Raising awareness for childhood cancer

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — September is recognized as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital says 43 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer every day. Worldwide, about 400,000 children and adolescents develop cancer with only half being diagnosed.

The Indiana Cancer Consortium says cancer during childhood is very rare, representing approximately 1% of all new cancer diagnoses in the U.S.  Although uncommon, cancer is the second leading cause of death in U.S. children ages one to 14, exceeded only by accidents.

Statistics from 2013 to 2017 show 375 cases of cancer and 57 cancer deaths happened each year in Indiana children ages 0 to 19. These childhood cancer trends in Indiana are said to be similar to what’s being seen nationwide.

For most cases of childhood cancer, the cause is unknown, the World Health Organization says.

Michelle Hoffman, a pediatric oncology social worker for Riley Children’s Health, joined me in the Daybreak studio on Tuesday to talk about ways to support families navigating a cancer diagnosis.

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, doctors say it is natural to want to support the family but it’s not always easy to know how or what they may need.

Hoffman says a great way to support families navigating a pediatric cancer diagnosis, is to be there. She adds that any kind of support is better than silence. You can send/offer verbal or written encouragement, babysit siblings, help with yard work, care for pets, drop off meals, or provide financial assistance.

Hoffman says talking to children about other children having cancer can be difficult and reminds parents and caregivers to leave space for questions and concerns. She says children can have a hard time understanding how a cancer diagnosis is affecting their friend or classmate, so be patient with their questioning.

Any intentional effort to lessen the stress these families are experiencing is encouraged.

These resources are also available: