Close

FAQs That Children Have About Head and Neck Cancer

160596449_8Here are some answers to children’s frequently asked questions about head and neck cancer:

What is Cancer?
Cancer is a disease of unhealthy cells. Our bodies are made up of cells so tiny you need a microscope to see them. Cancer cells don’t look or act like normal cells, and they don’t allow our normal cells to work properly. There are many different types of cancer, and it can grow anywhere in the body.1 What is cancer? National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/cancerlibrary/what-is-cancer.

What Causes Cancer?
We’re learning more about cancer every day, but there’s still a lot we don’t know. Sometimes cancer can be caused by certain chemicals or smoking cigarettes. People don’t get cancer because of anything they think or say or by being near people who have cancer.1 What is cancer? National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/cancerlibrary/what-is-cancer.

What Is a Tumor?
A tumor is a swelling or growth in the body. If a tumor can be felt, it usually feels like a lump or bump. Not all tumors are cancer.

What Does “Diagnosis” Mean?
Diagnosis is the identification of a disease. Doctors identify diseases by looking at symptoms and doing tests. Your parent might have several tests done before the doctor makes a diagnosis.

What Is a Biopsy?
A biopsy is a test doctors use to find out if cells are cancer. To do a biopsy, the doctor takes some cells out of your mom’s or dad’s tumor with a needle. Then another doctor will look at the cells under a microscope to see if they are normal or if they are cancer.

What is Imaging?
Imaging gives doctors a look inside a person’s body without having to do surgery. Images are pictures from scans such as x-rays, MRIs or CT-scans. Your parent will go inside a big machine that takes pictures of his or her insides. Then doctors will look at the images to see what the cancer looks like. This helps doctors plan your mom’s or dad’s treatment.

How is Cancer Treated?
Different people have different cancer treatments. Sometimes people have an operation (surgery) to take cancer out of the body. Or they’ll take a medicine called chemotherapy that uses special kinds of chemicals that destroy cancer cells. They might also have radiation therapy, which uses a special machine that helps get rid of cancer cells.2 Cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/treatment.

Does Cancer Happen to Children?
Yes, but most children don’t have to worry about getting cancer. It happens more often in adults.3 What you need to know about cancer: risk factors. National Cancer Institute. 2006 Oct 4. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/cancer/page3.

Is Cancer Contagious?
Cancer isn’t contagious—you can’t catch it from anyone.

What Are Side Effects?
Side effects of cancer treatment happen because the treatments damage healthy cells as well as destroy the cancer cells. You’ll be able to see some of the side effects such as hair falling out, scars from surgery, mouth sores and weight loss. The person with cancer might also be tired or feel sick to his or her stomach. After treatments are finished, most of these symptoms will go away.4, Radiation therapy side effects. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/radiation-therapy-and-you/page6.5 Chemotherapy side effects sheets. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemo-side-effects.

What Is Radiation?
Radiation is energy that travels in the form of particles (small bits of matter) or waves. Most kinds of radiation aren’t dangerous. Radiation therapy kills cancer cells with high-energy radiation such as x-rays or gamma rays.6 Radiation therapy for cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/radiation.

What Is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy, or “chemo,” uses drugs to kill cancer cells.

Is Mom or Dad Going to Need Surgery?
It is very common for doctors to remove cancer through surgery.

What Is a Feeding Tube?
A feeding tube can help your mom or dad get good nutrition even when he or she can’t eat food through the mouth. Your parent’s ability to chew or swallow may be changed by surgery to remove cancer. If that happens, he or she can get liquid food through a feeding tube. A feeding tube can be put in through the nose or directly into the stomach.

What Does “Metastasis” Mean?
Metastasis is the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.

Is Mom or Dad Going to Die?
We are all going to die sometime. Your mom or dad is working very hard to make sure he or she doesn’t die from cancer.

Who Will Take Care of Me?
There are lots of people who will take care of you when your mom or dad is feeling sick.

How Can I Help My Parent with Cancer?
You can help by doing chores around the house. You can also spend time with your parent, talking to him or her about your day or telling interesting stories. You might be able to help your parent eat or make sure the floor is clear so that he or she can get around easily. Being patient and understanding is one of the most helpful things you can do.

What If I Need Help?
If you feel like you can’t handle what’s happening, let your parents know. They may not know that you need help if you don’t tell them. Feeling scared or worried is normal. If it’s too much, though, there are people who can help you.

What Happens after the Cancer Is Gone?
When your mom or dad finishes treatment and the cancer is gone, he or she will need to keep visiting the doctor every few weeks or months for check-ups. These follow-up visits are to make sure the cancer does not come back.

When you get a cancer diagnosis, it involves the entire family. Everyone is affected. The family is a wonderful vehicle for everyone to lean on and get support from.Gordon O. (laryngeal cancer survivor)

References

1 What is cancer? National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/cancerlibrary/what-is-cancer.

2 Cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/treatment.

3 What you need to know about cancer: risk factors. National Cancer Institute. 2006 Oct 4. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/cancer/page3.

4 Radiation therapy side effects. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/radiation-therapy-and-you/page6.

5 Chemotherapy side effects sheets. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemo-side-effects.

6 Radiation therapy for cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/radiation.