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Pediatric Supportive Care

End-of-Life Care

Parents are partners with doctors in decisions about their child's end-of-life care.

Even though new and better treatments have increased the chances of a cure or remission, some types of childhood cancer do not get better. When a child's cancer does not get better or comes back, parents may not be sure about whether to continue treatment and, if so, what kind.

Parents who are caring for a child at the end of life need a lot of support that includes family members and the child's health care team. The health care team can help parents understand how different types of treatment can affect their child's quality of life. Parents have to decide if they want their child to continue to receive treatment even if it is not likely to affect the cancer. They also have to decide if they want their child to take part in decisions about end-of-life care.

Parents have reported that they find the most support from cancer treatment doctors who:

There may be services that can help with end-of-life care for children.

Some medical centers that specialize in cancer care for children have services that help with palliative and end-of-life care. These support services may include:

Other services that are helpful but may be harder to find include:

Even when palliative care and end-of-life care support services are not available, cancer treatment doctors may suggest other options to parents. If parents have home health care support, many are able to plan and give their child end-of-life care at home. This can have the following positive effects:

There are many important ways to improve end-of-life care for children.

When a child nears the end of life, the whole family needs compassionate medical, spiritual, emotional, and practical support. This includes the following types of help:

Good end-of-life care includes treatment and support that is based on the special needs of the child and family and improves their quality of life.

See the PDQ summary on Last Days of Life for more information.