Giving a child the truth about survival rates and their cancer

Stuart Siegel, MD, Director Children's Hospital Los Angeles, shares advice for parents on giving your child the truth when telling them about survival rates and their cancer
Pediatric Cancer Advice - Giving A Child The Truth About Survival Rates
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Giving a child the truth about survival rates and their cancer

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In general, I don't tell children specific survival statistics. I tell them is there a good chance, is there a reasonable chance of treating this with the treatment they were proposing. I certainly make it clear that there is no guarantee. We don't know for sure that it's going to take care. But, it is the best treatment to do that. My approach is I use the child as my guide. Because, if a child ask me, at any age,If a child asks me "Am I going to die from this?", I answer them honestly. Because, a child who asks that is ready to hear whatever answer there is. I try to answer it honestly, and in a way that is not as frightening to them. But, as factual as I can. But, yet I give them hope. Because, there is not a single situation, in terms of newly diagnosed childhood cancer, where there is not hope. Where we don't have a treatment that may work. So, I always provide hope to them. Because, there is hope. And the same thing is true for their parents. With the parents, we will often have a meeting without the child there. Unless the child is a teenager and able to really participate and understand. We will have a meeting without there child there, where I make available the opportunity for parents to ask specific questions about what's the survival rate for this cancer, with this treatment, etc.. And I give that information to them. But, with the child, particularly younger children, I give them the general idea. But, I really key in on how they respond, and what they ask. But, my principle is, I want to be always truthful with them.

Stuart Siegel, MD, Director Children's Hospital Los Angeles, shares advice for parents on giving your child the truth when telling them about survival rates and their cancer

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Stuart E. Siegel, MD

Director, Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Before recently shifting his focus to international medicine, Stuart Siegel, MD, was Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology for 35 years and the founding director of the the Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Professor and Head of the Division of Hematology-Oncology Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California. He remains a leader in supportive care and research in pediatric oncology, with a special focus on neuroblastoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Ewing Sarcoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors. From developing the first pediatric protective environment in 1971 for children undergoing intensive chemotherapy, to pioneering current efforts to develop academic and clinical care programs nationally and locally for adolescents and young adults with cancer, Dr. Siegel’s contributions have revolutionized the field of pediatric oncology. Dr. Siegel has been honored for his work by the American Cancer Society, Children Foundation, the Cancer Foundation, the Chase Foundation, Padres Contra El Cancer, the Israel Cancer Research Fund and Ronald McDonald House Charities, where he is a member of the National Board, and has consistently been listed among the nation’s top doctors in such publications asAmerica’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America. He is a father of one son, Joshua; grandfather of David and Elijah; and lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife of seven years.

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