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Psychological Support of Children with Cancer


Oncology issues are on the current agenda due to the constant searching for the most optimal medical interventions. The therapeutic approaches are diverse, starting from surgery, chemotherapy, and other means of increasing the chance of patients to reduce the risk of lethal outcome. The diagnosis is also an essential issue because it affects further measures to be taken in treating cancer. Finally, treating cancer is closely associated with the new technological advances, such as screening efforts or other means of diagnosing. These fields are thoroughly explored and discussed among the oncology nursing professionals today; however, little attention is given to the psychological dimension of care of the oncology patients. It particularly concerns children suffering from cancer.

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Psychosocial Oncology

Psychosocial oncology can be regarded as a relatively new sphere, which implies a multidisciplinary application of social and behavioral sciences. In this context, a pediatric psychosocial oncology is a new specialty in the sphere of psychosocial oncology. It is evident that children can encounter challenges while coping with stressful situations during surgery, treatment, radiation, and chemotherapy (Marcus, 2012). Therefore, the necessity of introducing specific pediatric psychosocial programs that would prevent the stressful outcomes of cancer treatment among children is urgent. The list of questions presented below will help understand what an effective program should include:

  1. What are the major problems, which should be solved within the program agenda? (qualitative)
  2. What functions should a program perform to reduce the risk of depression and stress among children with cancer? (qualitative)
  3. How many children suffer from depression because of inadequate therapeutic interventions? (quantitative)
  4. What is the role of parents in supporting children with cancer? (qualitative)

The purpose of this paper is to explore other possible programs that support the necessity of introducing psychological and social dimension into the oncology treatment practice. In this respect, oncology nurses will be able to deepen their knowledge on treatment of children who undergo significant stress while being engaged in surgical and medical interventions. The given research will also outline new approaches to managing patients with cancer. In particular, the hospitals could reconsider their budget and hire expert consultants that would work with children and make them feel more comfortable and be more aware of the seriousness of the disease.

Feedback from Colleagues

I have colleagues in many spheres of oncology research, including psychology, surgery, nursing, and counseling. However, most of their feedback and assumptions were rather similar. Specifically, all the colleagues were concerned with the psychological and social dimensions of treating children. They also approved my desire to learn more about this aspect in pediatric oncology because it is always a problem for children to understand why injections and treatment are necessary, albeit the procedures are painful. My colleague who specializes in psychology pointed to the importance of analyzing and perceiving the physiological reality of the disease.

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Therefore, the questions presented by me could provide more answers and information about the potential research. Additionally, a nursing professional was concerned with the evidence-based practice and the importance of introducing the quantitative part through surveys and interviews of children. He explained that most children and toddlers were not able to realize the necessity of taking multiple needle procedures and other procedures, which could be painful for them. As a result, the emotional instability and stress could make them more resistant to treatment, decreasing the chances of recovery.

In order to understand the extent, to which children undergo stress, it is essential to explore the tools and equipment that will help detect the cases of stress. The colleagues’ perceptions were congruent with the studies by Patel, Mullins, Turk, and Dekel (2011), where the attention has been given to ninety-one patient who were assessed to define the extent, to which they are need of psychological services. The results of the study have demonstrated that there is a reasonable agreement between standardized measures and the pediatric distress rating instrument.

Apart from tools, there were studies dedicated to the analysis of the ability of children with cancer to function normally in the social setting. The colleagues’ reports have revealed no difference between siblings in terms of friendship, social reputation, and reciprocated friendships. However, self-reported and teacher-reported pro-social behaviors were regarded high for siblings. It has also been detected that mothers were less involved in their activities and school performance. In this respect, the study concludes that peer relationships of children with cancer do not differ, but they can encounter insignificant decrements in the school performance and participation. The lowered performance could be a result the greater involvement in health issues and treatment.

Therefore, the task of the consultants and social workers is to promote support for parents and persuade them that ensuring a healthy environment also implies management of learning activities. Hinds, Nuss, Ruccione, Whithycombe, Jabocs, Deluca, and Dewalt (2013) have dedicated their research studies to the analysis of the ability of adolescents to complete PROMIS (the Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System) pediatric measures with the help of a computer interface. They have revealed positive results, but the study does not address psychological dimensions, which is a serious gap.

In addition, parents’ support of children with cancer is a valuable addition to the treatment. Child’s cancer, however, can change the role of parents, their responsibilities and functions that can lead to the loss of control. The extent, to which parents can abandon treatment and rational thinking, as well as how it affects the child’s perception and attitude to treatment, was studied by Norberg and Boman (2013). The study proved that loss of control on the part of parents could be considered a serious risk factor for the development of posttraumatic stress symptoms among children. Therefore, there are evident side effects of inappropriate functioning of parents, which should also be tackled when children with cancer undergo treatment.

Rationale for Choosing the Questions

The feedback received from the colleagues provides a deeper understanding of which questions should be revised and which should be eliminated. In particular, it should be stressed that the questions about the program agenda should not be changed because the evaluation of multiple programs can provide a new stand for revising the future programs and improving their effectiveness. Furthermore, the attention to such issues as the number of children who experience stressful situation is a quantitative aspect, which should be left to realize the scale of the problem. Finally, the role of parents in supporting children should be corrected and the specification should be made. In particular, the question should define the number of cases when parents make their children visit consultants and psychologist to decrease the psychological pressure.

The consideration of the above-presented studies should enhance the nurses’ awareness of the developmental stages and cognitive abilities of children, along with their vulnerability and knowledge limitations. Therefore, the goals of the oncology nursing care should premise on several objectives. To begin with, oncology nurses should promote the healthy maturation of children at intellectual, physical, and emotional levels with reliance on the family and community. Such nurses should not only provide care for children who require special therapeutic sessions but also help them cope with their disabilities, such as lack of mobility or other impairment obtained as a result of cancer. Additionally, there are several levels of care among the oncology nurses, which should be advanced.

With regard to the list of chosen questions, the second question uncovers the major purpose of the research plan to a full extent; therefore, it seems more relevant for the empirical study. Specifically, the evaluation of the current programs can help research the team identified gaps and provide recommendations for the future programs that would help answer research questions, such as how to reduce the ratio of depressed children with cancer, as well as what strategies should be used by parents to encourage their children during the treatment process.

Viability of Questions

All the questions chosen for the research seems to be viable and relevant. Although they cover different aspects of the problem, they fulfill the established problem – the importance of psychological intervention in pediatric oncology. The questions have also revealed the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the future study as they define both perception of children and the extent, to which parents are ready to support their children. The attention to the oncology cases presented above in the capacity of evidence shows that both colleagues and the current research are premised on the mixed-method approach to treating pediatric oncology. The topic is also of great value because psychosocial dimension must take place during the treatment of seriously ill children.

The questions also reveal the cognitive aspects of the research and create multiple implications for the future researches. Additionally, the role of questions in expanding the research activities is essential; therefore, the number of questions is justified, as well. The list of questions starts with the general interrogations and ends with the focused and specific concerns, which can guide the research team throughout the scientific investigation. Furthermore, the research questions are feasible due to a number of related research studies in the sphere, in which both empirical and theoretical stances have been introduced.

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