- What is cancer?
- How did my parent get cancer?
- Did I cause my parent's cancer?
- Will I get cancer too?
- What can I do to avoid getting cancer?
- What is chemotherapy and how does it work?
- Why do people lose their hair during chemotherapy?
- Why is my parent so tired now?
- What do I tell my friends who keep asking me questions about my parent's cancer when I don't want to talk?
- Is my parent going to die from cancer?
Cancer Questions and Answers:
Answer: Everybody's body is made up of millions of cells that are dividing every day. Sometimes some of these cells begin to grow in a strange, out of control way. Since they grow from our bodies they are not always recognized as foreign objects and escape our body's defense systems. As these cells grow out of control they can interfere with the normal function of our regular cells. This is what makes people with cancer sick. If a body has too many cancer cells and not enough regular cells, the person dies.
Answer: No one really knows how or why some people get cancer and others don't. Even people who research cancer aren't sure. They do know, however, that some things contribute to someone maybe getting sick. Some of these factors are genetics, environment, stress and unhealthy habits like smoking.
Genetics means that the genes in our body maybe want to produce cells that will grow into cancer. Only a few cancers are known to be genetic. Your mom or dad's doctor probably would have told them about it if this was true in their case.
Environmentally there are many chemicals that people live and work around. We know that some of them cause cancer and we've stopped using those. We're not sure about others. Chemicals do a lot of important jobs like help crops grow healthy, keep food safe, run our cars, etc. It's impossible to get rid of all of them so we choose to live with some amount of risk.
Stress may cause cells to grow abnormally by changing the way the chemicals inside our bodies work. We're not sure about all these relationships between our feelings and our bodies but we do think that people under a lot of stress seem to get sick more often.
Smoking has been now related to many types of cancers including lung, neck and mouth cancer. Scientists are looking at other things we do, like the foods we eat, to see if other kinds of habits affect whether or not we get cancer.
The bottom line with your mom or dad is this: the doctor may be able to guess what caused the cancer but probably can't. Most of the time they just don't know.
Answer: It's impossible for one person to give another person cancer, just impossible. There's nothing you did that caused it, can make it better or can make it worse for that matter.
Cancer patients get a lot of information about the importance of reducing stress while being treated. Kids often think this means they better not do anything to make their parent upset or the cancer will get worse. So, when that kid gets angry or upset, which is normal, they often feel a lot of guilt. That's also the reason some kids keep their feelings to themselves, to keep their parent's stress level down.
The best thing you can do to help your parent manage this situation is to share your painful, scary, and angry emotions with them when you feel them. That will let them know that you trust them and help them understand how you're doing. I guarantee you that their biggest worry is how this affects you.
Answer: A person can't catch cancer from someone else like a cold and most people never end up getting it. If you ever did get cancer it would be because something in the environment, your life style or your genetic makeup caused your normal cells to change.
Science can't change your genetic predisposition yet, nor can we completely change our surroundings. It's hard to get away from air pollution, for instance. Healthy habits, like a good diet and exercise, are the best insurance against getting cancer, just not a guarantee.
Answer: You can't guarantee that you will not get a cold, flu or cancer. You can reduce the chances of catching a cold by washing your hands before touching your face and getting plenty of rest. In the same way, avoiding things we know that can cause cancer can lessen your risk.
Some healthy habits to include in your lifestyle would be:
- Never smoke cigarettes or cigars
- Never drink alcohol
- Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Always wear sunscreen when out in the sun
Answer: Chemo is a medication that kills fast growing cells. Cancer cells are usually fast growing and out of control. Some normal cells are fast growing too, such as hair and the lining of your mouth. Normal cells can repair themselves easily whereas cancer cells do not possess a good internal mechanism to fix the damage caused by chemo.
Answer: Chemo kills fast growing cells. Your hair and the lining of your mouth are also fast growing cells. So when the chemotherapy kills the fast growing cells such as the cancer cells, it also kills the growing hair cells. This then causes the hair to fall out. Hair will regrow when chemotherapy stops.
Answer: Other fast growing cells affected by chemo are the red blood cells. They are responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients to all areas of the body. If some one does not have enough blood cells to carry nutrients and oxygen, the body uses the energy for essential functions first, like keeping your heart and lungs working. If there isn't much energy left, you have a hard time walking, and doing the stuff you usually do. This is why a lot of parents have to stop working for a while.
Answer: Most of your good friends will be worried about you and will want to talk about it because they care about you. It's O.K. to tell them, "Thanks but I would rather not talk about it right now." Hopefully you'll be able to confide in at least one good friend because talking it out usually really helps.
Answer: No one knows for sure. But just like other serious forms of illness some people get better and some do not. You should definitely ask your mom or dad this question if it's bugging you. If your sick parent is also your only parent and you're worried about what would happen to you if he or she dies, you should also definitely ask about it. This kind of worry can make you feel sick, depressed and angry. You'll be surprised by how much better you feel once you get it out in the open.