Cancer Survivors Center funded for children

04/21/04

Cleveland, April 21, 2004: With support from the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital will create a new Center for the Survivors of Childhood Cancer. The Foundation, which has been developed "to enhance the quality of life for those living with, through, and beyond cancer" (http://www.laf.org) is providing $100,000 to plan the development of the Center, and intends to commit $150,000 each year for three years to support the program. The Rainbow Board of Trustees has committed matching funds for the same period of time.

The pediatric hospital of University Hospitals of Cleveland (UHC), Rainbow is the largest referral center in northern Ohio for children with leukemia, lymphomas, and childhood solid tumors. "Each year, about 500 children in Ohio are diagnosed with cancer, and the vast majority of them will be cured and survive into adulthood," says Meri Armour, Senior Vice President for Women's and Children's Services and the Ireland Cancer Center at UHC. Armour conceived the idea for Center. "This program is about children and their families living with and surviving cancer. The cancer experience is a struggle and many survivors feel as though they've been given the gift of life, but it is a hollow gift unless survivors emerge from their experience capable of living a full and productive life."

The Center will be a community resource located outside of the hospital environment, and be open to pediatric cancer patients at facilities throughout northern Ohio, including the Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth Medical Center. The expertise of pediatricians, psychologists, nurses and oncologists from University Hospitals Ireland Cancer Center will be called upon to develop various services and programs, including:

  • Care management programs to manage and monitor the impact of cancer treatment and potential side effects, including cognitive delays, and problems in growth and development, puberty and fertility, and psychological development.
  • Training programs for teachers, coaches, and child activity specialists to support transition from treatment into school and other activities.
  • Parent and sibling counseling
  • Special sports/training programs to re-enter the child into the "active" world.

Cleveland business executive Michael Sherwin serves on the Board of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and helped to bring the project proposal to the Board's attention: "We believe that the proposed Rainbow Center could be a model for survivorship programs around the country." The former president of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Michael Sherwin's connections to University Hospitals run deep: his wife, father and grandmother have all provided significant philanthropic or volunteer support for enhanced quality of care. "I'm gratified for the opportunity to help one more Cleveland-based innovation grow, hopefully thrive, and help thousands of cancer survivors here and elsewhere."

"We have borne witness to a real miracle in that 80% of children diagnosed with cancer will be cured with treatment," says Eric Kodish, MD, pediatric oncologist, who is co-director of the new center as well as director of the Rainbow Center for Pediatric Ethics at Rainbow, and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "But it is our responsibility as a medical community to take care of these youngsters after they are cured, because the treatment itself can produce lifelong consequences. For example, we know that chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause significant cognitive changes in the brain that affect a child's ability in school. We need to understand how to help these kids and their families move forward with their lives. A community-based approach that is holistic and specific to cancer survivors fills an important need."

As part of the program, participants will be evaluated regularly during and after treatment by a team that includes a physician, nurse, psychologist, and child life specialist working with the child, family and primary oncologist to ensure that the physical and emotional needs of child and family are met. "We know that some survivors are traumatized by their cancer experience," says Dennis Drotar, PhD, who is co-director of the new center as well as chief of the division of behavioral pediatrics and psychology at Rainbow and professor at Case. "Studies have indicated that pediatric cancer survivors feel different from their peers: some feel more anxious, others are much more resilient. The programs of the center will be designed to involve pediatric cancer survivors and their families in the promotion of well-being and quality of life long after treatment ends. We anticipate that innovative programs of the new center will have national significance."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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