Published: Jan. 25, 2012
Updated: Jan. 25, 2012
Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread). As cancer cells grow, they demand more and more of the body's nutrition.
Cancer can impair a child's strength, destroy organs and bones, and weaken the body's defenses against other illnesses. The most common childhood cancers are leukemia, lymphoma, and brain cancer. As children enter their teen years, there is also an increase in the incidence of osteosarcoma (bone cancer).
Although there are exceptions, childhood cancers tend to respond better to chemotherapy. Therefore, most children with cancer will be undergoing some form of this treatment. Chemotherapy can affect growth and strength throughout the body. Some children will also receive radiation therapy and if it is for a brain tumor, there is the possibility of cognitive deficits.
The primary goals of physical therapy are to maintain and improve strength, joint alignment, balance, and endurance. The primary goals of occupational therapy are to improve strength as well, but also assist in dealing with the cognitive side-effects of treatments and to work to maintain the child’s previous level of independence with meaningful activities.
Physical and occupational therapists will formulate a treatment plan that will assist patients and families to maintain and improve their function and independence as much as possible. Children undergoing treatments for cancer are seen as inpatients and as outpatients.