March 20, 2014

Top-notch care for children with cancer and other blood diseases is offered at the CAMC Children's Cancer Center on the campus of Women and Children's Hospital.

"Oftentimes at diagnosis, families will tell us they did not know that we [Women and Children's] treat children with cancer," said Christi Bissett, child life specialist. "The great thing about having a facility close to home is that patients do not have to completely disrupt their lives for treatment. Any other children in the home can continue their schooling while the patient receives treatment, and at least one parent can continue to work."

The CAMC Children's Cancer Center is accredited by the Children's Oncology Group (COG).

"Because more than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year, having a cancer center dedicated to pediatric patients here in the Charleston area provides the necessary expertise to provide high quality care, close to home," said Chibuzo O'Suoji, MD, assistant professor in pediatric hematology/oncology for West Virginia University-Charleston Division. "The patient is able to retain the support system that the extended family and community can offer at this difficult time."

The COG is a worldwide, cooperative children's cancer research organization.

"As the only fully independent member of the Children's Oncology Group in the state, we have access to the most up-to-date treatment protocols available for children with cancer," said Howard Grodman, MD, associate professor in pediatric hematology/oncology for West Virginia University-Charleston Division."Through this consortium, we are part of the latest clinical research working toward the cure of all children with cancer."

"Each child is treated at the CAMC Children's Cancer Center with the same COG protocols that you would find at larger facilities anywhere in the country," said Melissa Appleton, RNC. "Not having to travel to those facilities means that each family can continue to have a home life that is as normal as possible. It also helps with financial burdens."

The collaboration of Charleston Area Medical Center and West Virginia University Physicians of Charleston benefits CAMC patients through excellence in care, and with CAMC's distinction as a teaching hospital, it also helps area physicians through educational resources and consultation. The benefits from the affiliation are also reflected in the education of medical students and residents from a current practice perspective.

Comprehensive care at the center is provided to patients by a multidisciplinary team that includes two board-certified pediatric hematology/oncology physicians, one pediatric hematology/oncology nurse practitioner who is also a certified pediatric oncology nurse, infusion center nurse, psychologist, chaplain, child life specialist, dietitian, social worker, physical therapist and two pharmacists.

"Our facility has the resources to treat all children with cancer or blood disorders," Grodman said. "In addition to cancer services, we have a pediatric surgeon, a pediatric neurosurgeon and a pediatric intensive care unit. We also have access to all radiologic services, including radiation oncology, as needed."

Children treated at the CAMC Children's Cancer Center have uniquequalities, and the team of specialists makes sure to treat them in ways that cater to their personal preferences.

"We become very close to each child during treatment and get to know what likes and preferences make the treatments easier," Appleton said.

Patient and family-centered care is one of the trademarks of Women and Children's Hospital.

"We provide a range of resources beyond what is needed to treat the disease because we recognize that every member of a family with a child diagnosed with cancer is affected by that diagnosis," Grodman said. "So we are fully-equipped to support them throughout their therapy and beyond."

This is important because the diagnosis of cancer does not end when treatment is completed.

"These children are at lifelong risks for long term or late effects of their therapy," O'Suoji said. "At the CAMC Children's Cancer Center, we are able to follow these patients until adulthood. This enables us to detect early, and intervene in, any complications of therapy that may arise. We are then able to transition them to our adult oncology team for lifelong follow-up."

O'Suoji also said that having a children's cancer center in Charleston helps raise awareness of childhood cancer in the community and across the state.

"It can help attract needed resources to the area for both treatment and further research into childhood cancer, and for the support of families that are dealing with this dreaded disease," she said.

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