When a child or young person is diagnosed with cancer, they enter often unfamiliar territory of appointments, tests, hospitals and treatments. You’ll have a team of medical professionals and support workers ready to help you navigate it, but sometimes it can be helpful to know more about what to expect.
treatment in hospital
Where a young person is treated will most likely depend on their age. They can be sent to either a paediatric (children’s) or adult facility. Their hospital may also depend on where they live or even what type of cancer they have. Not all hospitals offer cancer treatment, so you may have to travel, especially if you live in a regional or rural area.
Some Australian hospitals have dedicated units or wards especially for teenagers and young adults with cancer, staffed by specialist medical teams. Talk to your local Youth Cancer Service for more information.
treatment as an outpatient
While most young people stay in hospital at least a few nights initially, they can also be treated as outpatients – someone who comes in just during the day for treatment. Many people cycle through different stages of treatment both in hospital and as outpatients.
staying in hospital
Some young people end up in hospital very quickly once they are diagnosed. This is where a Redkite diagnosis support pack can be useful.
Whether parents and other family members can stay overnight will depend on the hospital’s policy. Generally, paediatric hospitals will try to let carers stay and have facilities for this.
If you are staying in hospital for a long period for treatment, some things you can do to make it more comfortable include:
staying near hospital
If you’re travelling a long distance to support a young person through treatment, you might be concerned about where you’ll stay. There are services that can help with accommodation, including:
You may also qualify for the patient transit scheme or equivalent in your state. Ask your hospital social worker about your options.
Every hospital will have different rules regarding visiting hours, but visitors are generally encouraged. If the young person is at risk of infection, visitors may need to wear protective clothing like gowns and gloves to prevent the spread of germs.
It can be helpful to connect the diagnosed young person with friends, extended family and school or work mates. At the same time, you may need to reassure them if some people don’t visit. Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon, as hospitals make some people uncomfortable.
Don't forget your hospital social worker and the Redkite support team are here to talk through managing your hospital stay as well as returning home.
your treating team
Understanding who does what in a cancer treatment team can be challenging. Here’s an overview of what each person’s job is:
There may be also be people like physiotherapists, music therapists or dietitians who are there to help with some of the challenges or side effects of treatment. These people can form what is called a multidisciplinary team (or MDT) – a team of professionals from all different areas (or disciplines) working together to make sure each young person is getting the best possible care.
Last updated September 2015.