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Leukemia: finding the best treatment for your child

By Lila Havens, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

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Leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children. Still, cancer in children is rare, and it may be treated differently than cancer in adults. If your child has leukemia, finding the best care available is a priority. Here are some tips that can help.

Find the right doctor. Your child should be treated by a pediatric hematologist or oncologist. This is a doctor who specializes in childhood blood diseases and cancer. The doctor will work with a team of experts to coordinate your child’s care.

To find a pediatric hematologist or oncologist in your area:

  • Ask your family doctor for a recommendation.
  • Check with your insurance company.
  • Call a local hospital or medical school.
  • Check with the closest children’s hospital.

It’s important to pick a doctor you feel comfortable with and can talk to. You will be working closely with this person throughout your child’s treatment.

Get a second opinion. Once the doctor has suggested a treatment plan, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion. This means asking another doctor to review the first doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Some insurance companies require a second opinion.

Tell your doctor that you plan to get a second opinion. This is common practice, and most doctors support this practice. Your doctor may be able to give you the name of a doctor who can give you a second opinion.

Choose a treatment center. Hospitals or cancer centers that treat a lot of children with cancer often have the best outcomes. A specialized cancer center gives your child access to the latest treatments and the most experienced doctors.

To find a treatment center:

  • Ask your child’s hematologist or oncologist where he or she practices.
  • Check with your insurance company to find out which centers it covers.
  • Find a cancer center chosen by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). To locate an NCI cancer center, call the Cancer Information Service at 800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237) or 800-332-8615 (TTY).
  • Look for a center that is part of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). This is the world’s largest childhood cancer research group. Go to their Web site at www.curesearch.org and click “Find a COG hospital.”

Consider a clinical trial if your child’s doctor recommends it. A clinical trial is a study of a new treatment that doctors hope will work better than standard treatment. Clinical trials are done at centers all over the country.

You may wonder why you would want to enroll your child in a clinical trial. Here are some things to think about:

  • More than six of every 10 children with leukemia are treated in clinical trials.
  • The most promising treatment for your child may be available only through a clinical trial.
  • Taking part in a clinical trial can help all children with leukemia.

Become an expert on leukemia. It will be up to you to make a lot of decisions about your child’s care. To do this, you’ll need to be well informed. To learn all you can ask questions. Your child’s doctors and nurses are great sources of information. When you meet with them, take notes. Don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down and explain things.

View the original Leukemia: finding the best treatment for your child article on myOptumHealth.com 

SOURCES:

  • American Cancer Society. Cancer facts and figures 2007. Accessed: 03/17/2008
    • Cancer.Net. Leukemia, acute lymphoblastic, ALL, childhood. Accessed: 03/17/2008
      • National Cancer Institute. Young people with cancer: a parent’s handbook. Accessed: 03/17/2008
        • CureSearch.org. What is a clinical trial? Accessed: 03/17/2008
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