Children often have a more difficult time beating cancer because of the aggressiveness of the treatment plans. But some experts say that they have come up with a way to take the trauma out of chemotherapy for young people.
The New York Times reports on the new treatment option. It is said to be a big hit in its latest trial runs.
Children with leukemia and other cancers often have a five day run of chemotherapy. Usually these sessions consist of children being placed in a small cubicle with green hospital walls and old (often broken) video games.
But now experts say they have a better, more comfortable, more efficient way of treating children for chemotherapy. Their new way helps keep up the child’s morale, which in turn helps the child fight harder.
This new place the child would be sitting in is called the ‘infusionarium’. It is a makeshift space where the child sits in a comfortable reclining chair. Music fills the space and Roiling close-ups of extreme sports spring across four high-definition monitors. The monitors are five-feet tall and have skateboarding stunts, parachute-skiing, kayaking over waterfalls.
Children have been loving the makeshift space. Many describe it as ‘amazing!’ and ‘awesome!’ according to the researchers. The visits that were once physically and emotionally exhausting are now at least somewhat fun. Their levels of anxiety and sleeplessness go down.
“According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 16,000 new cases of cancer will have been diagnosed this year in infants and children up to 19 years old. On any given day, thousands of these young patients are receiving chemotherapy at outpatient infusion clinics,” according to The Times.
With so many children getting diagnosed with cancer every year it is extremely important to continuously evolve and improve the treatment process. These visits also make the children feel sick and like they are different from other kids. The long term impact of these visits could lead to post traumatic stress disorder, because the child often feels like a victim. This feeling tends to erode morale as well. So changing the visits to make them more fun, more like a play date, could immensely help.
What types of things are experts trying?
They are looking into aromatherapy, having them make music CDs, teaching patients self hypnosis etc. They are hoping to distract patients and calm them.
The Times explains,
“Now, as five-year survival rates for some pediatric cancers climb to 90 percent, medical teams are paying more attention to making outpatient treatment less formidable and more responsive to the patient’s psychological needs. That is no small challenge when patients at a pediatric clinic range in age from newborn to 25 years old.”
Some clinics are also encouraging patients to be more social and stay busy; they do this by creating play rooms and areas for teens to watch TV together.
The Children’s Hospital of Orange County has one of the first Infusionariums. They say it has helped children feel more whole and complete. The patients often lose themselves in this tranquil environment. Children often watch classics like ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ in there. Younger girls often watch ‘Frozen’.
“Dr. Sender and Mr. Holzberg also asked patients, ‘If you could be treated anywhere but a hospital, where would it be?’ In the sky, soaring like a bird, some replied. Underwater, said others. So the Infusionarium offers sensory, immersive selections like ‘The Living Sea’,” according to The Times.
Experts hope that the idea for the Infusionarium catches on so that children across the country can have a better treatment experience.