My child is returning to school for the first time after completing cancer treatments. What are some things I should be aware of?

It’s important to communicate concerns you have with the school staff (principal, teachers, nurses, counselors) and to stay in touch with members of your child’s treatment team. You should make sure they understand some possible challenges related to childhood cancer.

Some suggested areas of topics to discuss include physical education, as some children may not be capable of too many strenuous activities after treatment; school dress code, as some children may want to wear a hat or scarf if their hair has not grown back from treatment; class schedule, where accommodations on classes and individualized plans may need to be discussed, and, attendance policy, as children may need to miss more days than allowed because of follow-up doctor appointments and/or new treatment schedules.

You might find it helpful to talk to the class to explain the child’s disease and treatment before your child returns to school. If the child is old enough, she or he may feel better talking to the class on her or his own.

You might ease your child back into school by initially sending them part time. This allows the child to gradually get used to a new schedule and to discover possible obstacles that must be addressed without causing the child to feel too overwhelmed.

It is also important to remember that there are cognitive late effects of treatment that may go beyond initial post-treatment issues. According to the National Cancer Institute, cognitive late effects of treatment of childhood cancer can include changes in mood, feelings, actions, thinking, learning and memory. Possible risk factors include the type of cancer, age of child during treatment, type of treatment, amount of treatment, area of body treated, genetic factors or health issues prior to cancer.

Before your child goes back to school, talk to their doctor to make sure you understand your child’s limitations to better help them adapt with returning to school. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has a publication titled “Learning & Living with Cancer” with a list of possible accommodations for individualized plans. This would be an excellent publication for parents to bring when meeting with the school staff. Cancer Services also has a tutoring program for childhood cancer survivors who might find themselves behind due to time away from the classroom or due to late effects.

For more information, contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273,, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

Internet Resources:

Learning & Living with Cancer — LLS

Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®) – NCI

Preparing the Classroom for Your Child’s Return to School - CureSearch

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.