Hi, Hi!

If one of your parents has cancer, you can be very worried about it. Maybe you have questions about it and want to know how cancer is treated. Or are you curious how others react to such a situation? This site contains many things related to cancer. Of course there are also tips.

What is cancer?

A body consists of billions of cells. These cells divide constantly. Because cells also die, there is a kind of balance. In cancer, this balance is disrupted. A genetic error has occurred in one of the cells during division. The mutated cell continues to divide, takes the place of healthy cells and grows into a tumor. This tumor can continue to grow into surrounding tissue and organs. The cancer cells can also wander through the body and settle in other places. So something has to be done about it.

     

Many many questions

Do you have questions? See if your question is there or ask us. We will try to answer you as quickly as possible.

How does cancer arise?

Cancer is the result of a change in DNA, the hereditary material contained in the cell nuclei. Changes in the DNA are partly caused by external damage (UV radiation, alcohol, smoking, asbestos) and partly by causes that we do not know. The immune system usually clears out such a mutated cell, sometimes not. Why such a mutation sometimes leads to cancer and not other times is not always clear.

Can you prevent cancer?

No, but you can minimize the risk of developing cancer yourself. By not smoking or vaping, by paying attention to what and how much you drink, by applying plenty of sunscreen, and by getting a vaccination against the HPV virus. Regular exercise also helps reduce the risk of cancer. This is called prevention.

How common is cancer?

In 2022, more than 124,000 people in the Netherlands were told they had cancer. The number of people in the Netherlands who have ever been diagnosed with cancer and who are still alive is estimated at 850,000. You will find many more numbers at https://iknl.nl/nkr-figures.

How many types of cancer are there?

There are more than 100 different types of cancer. The name of the species is named after the tissue from which the cancer cell originates, the place where the cancer originated or the doctor who discovered it. There is breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, brain tumor, leukemia, prostate cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, Kahler’s disease, and so on.

Where does the word cancer come from?

Cancer comes from the Greek word karnikos meaning crab. A tumor is usually not even and round, but has a kind of spikes. The discoverers of cancer thought those blades resemble the legs of a crab. KWF Cancer Control has made that crab its logo.

Is cancer a disease of our time?

No, cancer is very old. Mummies of people who had cancer have been found during excavations in Egypt.

Is cancer hereditary?

Occasionally cancer runs in families and we know that a few types can be hereditary. However, this is not the case with most cancers. And if your father or mother has a hereditary form of cancer, that still does not mean that you will also get it. When you are an adult, you decide for yourself whether you want to have this examined.

Is cancer contagious?

No, cancer is not contagious.

Is cancer more common here than in other countries?

That depends on the type of cancer. In Europe, everyone who has cancer is registered. For example, we have known for years how many people have cancer, how old they are, whether they are men or women, what type of cancer they have and how they are doing. From this registration we learn that some types of cancer occur more or less often in certain countries or among certain peoples.

Cancer and dying, what about that?

In recent years, more and more people have been cured or continue to live with the disease for a very long time. They do have cancer, but the cancer cells are not growing. Cancer and dying are therefore not the same. No two people respond to treatment the same and there are major differences between types of cancer. With one species the chance of survival is more than 90%, with the other only 5%.

What is a tumour?

A tumor, also called a growth, is a group of clumped cells. A tumor can be benign or malignant. Cancer is a malignant tumor.

What is the difference between benign and malignant

A benign tumor can push the surrounding tissue aside, but does not invade. A malignant tumor has a tendency to grow into the tissue. In addition, a malignant tumor can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.

What is a metastasis?

Cancer cells can wander through the body. A new tumor can develop where the wandering cancer cell ends up. This new tumor is called a spread or metastasis.

What is a prognosis?

A prognosis is a prediction of the course of the disease. If the prognosis is good, the doctor expects that things will end well; if the prognosis is poor, your father or mother will remain ill for a long time and eventually die. But an exact prediction is often difficult to make. After all, every person responds differently to illness and treatment.

Can I do anything to help my parents?

Try to remain yourself as much as possible. Go to school, keep exercising, but also take the home situation into account. Do chores more often. Also try to talk to your parents about what you are feeling or thinking. Many parents worry about the fact that their child says so little.

Tests

X-rays

The first indications that it could be cancer or metastases can sometimes be seen on an X-ray. A spot in the lungs, an abnormality in the chest or a rib that looks different. The doctor suspects that something is wrong and continues the search.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound is an examination with sound waves. To better conduct the waves, the skin is rubbed with a gel. The doctor passes a transmitter over your father or mother’s body. The echo of the sound waves emitted by the transmitter produces images that are viewed on a monitor. This way the doctor can see if there is anything that should not be there.

Blood tests

Your father or mother’s blood is checked for the presence of tumor markers, substances that the body produces in response to the cancer. We also look at how the red and white blood cells behave.

MRI

An MRI is sometimes performed to properly visualize organs and soft tissues. An MRI uses magnetic fields. An MRI machine is a kind of tube that makes a loud noise and through which your father or mother slides on a movable table. Because the examination takes quite a long time, it is sometimes recommended to bring music with you

PET/CT-scan

A scan can provide additional information about the size and location of the tumor. First, your father or mother receives an injection with a slightly radioactive substance. After the cancer cells have absorbed the substance, a device that looks like a huge drum takes a lot of photos one after the other. Your father or mother must lie on a table that slides very slowly through the drum. After a few hours, the radioactive substance has disappeared from the body. The substance is not dangerous.

Biopsy

Sometimes the radiologist or surgeon removes a small piece of tissue from the tumor (biopsy). The biopsy is examined under a microscope in the laboratory by the pathologist. This way the doctor can see exactly which type of cancer it is.

Treatment

There are various treatments for cancer. The doctor always looks for a treatment with the greatest possible chance of recovery with the fewest possible side effects.

Doctors all over the world are looking for ways to treat cancer. There is a lot of consultation and research being done both within and outside the Netherlands.

Operations

Operations

During surgery, the surgeon cuts away the tumor or as large a part of it as possible. Sometimes more is removed, a breast or a piece of intestine for example. This is necessary to prevent further growth or recurrence of the tumor. After the operation, the pathologist (a doctor specially trained for this purpose) examines the tumor tissue under the microscope. The next course of treatment is determined based on this result and data from other tests. People who undergo surgery often have to stay in the hospital for a while after the operation. Once home they may be weakened. Your father or mother may not be allowed to do certain things for a while, such as lifting heavy things or climbing stairs.

         

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment with medicines. These medications, also called cytostatics, ensure that the cancer cells can no longer divide and die. The bad thing is that chemotherapy also damages healthy cells. This can cause your father or mother to become nauseous, suffer from a sore mouth, numb fingertips, hair loss and sometimes also memory loss. Fortunately, healthy cells eventually recover and most side effects disappear after a while. However, most parents remain tired for a long time after chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy can be in an IV, in pills or in a syringe. Your father or mother usually receives the medication in the hospital, sometimes at home.

An IV is a plastic bag that hangs on a pole and with a thin tube and needle inserted into one of the veins in the arm. There is usually also a counter on the pole. This indicates exactly how many drops of cytostatics are allowed to pass through per minute.

Because cytostatics can damage the skin, everything must be done very precisely and the nurse always works with gloves. Because the remainder of the cytostatics is excreted through the urine, the toilet at home must be cleaned extra well.

         

Radiation

Radiation

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, kills cancer cells. The treatment takes place in the radiotherapy department where there are enormous machines that are aimed very precisely at the cancerous tumor. It is precise work because healthy cells must be spared as much as possible. Using computer models, the doctor calculates in advance how much radiation is needed and where it should be delivered. Because this must always be in the same place, stripes are drawn or dots tattooed on your father or mother’s body with ink. If your father or mother is exposed to radiation on the head, a mask will be made. To spare healthy cells as much as possible, each irradiation only takes a few minutes. Some patients are irradiated more than thirty times.

   

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a treatment with medications that strengthen the body’s immune system. This sometimes makes the body better able to defend itself against cancer cells.

Hormoontherapy

Hormoontherapy

The body’s own hormones can enhance the growth of cancer cells. To counteract this, the doctor may suggest hormone therapy. Hormone therapy usually consists of medications. Most parents get hot flashes from this. Then they break out into a sweat and suddenly feel very warm. That goes away after a few minutes. Changes in mood are also a common phenomenon.

Targeted therapie

Targeted therapie

Cancer cells sometimes send wrong messages to their environment. They signal that cells need to grow or that blood vessels need to be created, which nourishes the cancer cells. Targeted therapy slows down those signals. That is why these medications are often called ‘inhibitors’, for example HER2 inhibitor or VEGF inhibitor. Your father or mother may suffer from dry skin, cracks or blisters in hands and feet or very sensitive fingertips.

Stamcel
transplantatie

Stamceltransplantatie

Om de kans op genezing te vergroten, wordt soms een stamceltransplantatie gegeven. Stamcellen zijn onrijpe cellen die in het beenmerg zitten en waaruit nieuwe cellen kunnen ontstaan. De stamcellen kunnen van je vader of moeder zelf zijn (autologe stamceltransplantatie) of van iemand anders, een donor (allogene stamceltransplantatie). Die donor moet dezelfde weefseltypering (HLA-typering) hebben als je vader of moeder. Een verwante donor (familie) is het beste, maar de stamcellen kunnen ook afkomstig zijn van een donor uit de donorbank.

De transplantatie gebeurt in drie stappen. 1: de stamcellen worden uit het bloed van je zieke ouder of donor gehaald en daarna bewaard en ingevroren. 2: je zieke ouder krijgt een grote dosis chemo en/of bestraling. 3: de stamcellen worden aan je zieke ouder (terug)gegeven.

Omdat de kans op infecties groot is, moet je vader of moeder apart in een kamer liggen en mag je soms niet op bezoek. Dat kan wel een paar weken duren. Eenmaal thuis dan zijn er leefregels voor eten, hygiëne en contact met anderen. Je vader of moeder moet regelmatig naar het ziekenhuis voor controle, loopt bij een allogene transplantatie het risico dat de stamcellen worden afgestoten door het eigen lichaam en zal veel extra medicijnen moeten slikken. Maar als alles goed gaat groeien de stamcellen uit tot gezonde bloedcellen.

 

     

Changes

When one of your parents has cancer, things sometimes change. That takes some getting used to.

Hospital visit

A father or mother who has cancer often has to go to the hospital. For examination, discussions with the specialist and for treatment. Sometimes that hospital is close by, sometimes not. Are you someone who wants to see and know everything? Then come along sometime.

Upset

Parents who have cancer can be quite upset. They usually don’t say that, but you notice it. They are sad, angry, depressed and sometimes unreasonable. It helps if you understand where it comes from. Sometimes it helps to comfort, other times it’s better to go for a walk.

Britt: “I find it quite difficult. One moment you can hardly get near her and she wants to be left alone, the next moment she just wants everything to be normal.”

Behavioral changes

Parents with cancer sometimes change their character or behavior. This is often the result of medication and it becomes normal again after a while. If your father or mother has a brain tumor or has metastases in the head, you will sometimes have to deal with permanent behavioral changes. Parents sometimes just get angry or can no longer find their words. That feels very powerless and sad.

External changes

Some parents start to look different due to treatment or their illness. They are missing a breast, have a stoma, are bald due to chemotherapy or have a (large) scar. There are also parents who become fat or very thin due to their illness. That may look like it.

Jorna: “My father has become very thin. So thin that I hardly dare to touch him anymore.”

Nothing to see and still sick

You can’t see anything in most people who have cancer. That’s nice, but it can also give mixed feelings. It’s like you have to prove that your father or mother is really sick.

Sacha: “Some friends just don’t believe that my mother is so ill. She looks very good, they say. Apparently you must look deathly ill. Only then will they believe you.”

Fatigue

Fatigue in cancer is common. It surprises your father or mother at the strangest moments. Daily life will therefore look different than before. Your father or mother will have to take more time for themselves. The fatigue usually goes away, but with some forms of cancer the fatigue persists (for a very long time).

Adjust

Cancer and work do not always go well together, so your father or mother is probably at home more often. That requires some adjustment. Try to understand the situation, but also indicate what is bothering you.

Max: “My father sits at home all day and is really annoyed about it. The bad thing is that he starts to interfere with me. He gets irritated when I’m gaming and also interferes with my homework!”

The opposite world

Instead of your father or mother helping you, sometimes you have to help your father or mother. That’s the world turned upside down. And when you are the eldest you often get more responsibilities. Yet many young people like it when they can do something. Nice, sad and strange at the same time.

Mees: “Weird. My father used to give me a bath, now I help him. Actually, something like that shouldn’t happen at all. A father should take care of his child. Not the other way around. Still, I like being able to give something back. After all, he did it for me too.”

What does it do to you?

Many young people with a father or mother with cancer are sad, afraid or angry and/or feel alone. Some worry about the future, others shrug their shoulders and see.

Sad

Being sad when one of your parents has cancer is logical. Maybe your father or mother is very ill, the mood at home has changed or you feel that your parents are sad. Or maybe your parent looks pretty good but you have your doubts. It helps if you talk, vlog, write or rap about it.

Protecting

You may find it difficult to share your feelings with your parents. After all, they already have enough on their minds. And so you will automatically protect them. But many parents like to know what’s going on in their children’s heads. Do you continue to find it difficult? Then find someone you trust. Your mentor, for example, an uncle or aunt, or your best friend.

Ignoring it

It’s not a bad thing to bury your head in the sand, as long as you take it out every now and then. Drinking and drugs only make it worse, for a moment you feel nothing, then all the feelings come back in full force. Maybe kickboxing or another activity will help.

Scared

Afraid that your father or mother will become even sicker. Afraid that the cancer will come back. Afraid that you will get cancer yourself. Afraid that your father or mother will die. If you are unable to discuss your fears at home, request a meeting with your father or mother’s treating physician or make an appointment with your GP. Sometimes your fears are based on something that is really wrong!

Yannik: “Because I look like my mother, I was afraid I would get it too. When my mother heard that, she immediately sent me to the doctor.”

Angry

Maybe you are angry at the cancer, at the fact that it has to be your father or mother, because it is no longer fun at home or because you can no longer be yourself. Find ways to deal with that anger. Running, playing football, making music, writing lyrics, talking to your friends, make sure you can handle it.

Short-tempered

Young people who have a father or mother with cancer often have a short fuse. They go crazy, especially when people talk about cancer. Understandable but not always useful. Before you know it, you’re the one taking the hit. So don’t do that.

Unpleasant thoughts

Do you feel like you can’t figure it out? Would you rather do something to yourself? Don’t keep these thoughts to yourself. Remember that you are not the only one who thinks this way from time to time. Don’t be influenced by the ideas and stories of others, but seek help.

Feeling guilty

You may feel guilty. Shouldn’t you stay home instead of going to your friends? What if something happens? But life goes on, even if your father or mother has cancer. Talk to your parents about it and make sure you are reachable on your mobile phone. Then you can go home in an emergency.

Feel lumps

Have you felt all kinds of lumps and aches since your father or mother had cancer? Go to the doctor, but also try to maintain confidence. Count to ten and don’t panic. Not everyone gets cancer and certainly not when you are young.

Don’t give up

That is of course extremely important. Can’t your birthday party go ahead? Maybe next month. Can’t you go on holiday? The next holiday will be simply great!

School

To tell?

That is of course extremely important. Can’t your birthday party go ahead? Maybe next month. Can’t you go on holiday? The next holiday will be simply great!

Distraction

It could be that your head is just too full. Then that math lesson is no longer possible. But school may also be a distraction. After all, you are busy with other things.

Your classmates

Make sure a few classmates are aware of your home situation. They can stand up for you and help you if things don’t work out.

Friends

You have friends in good times and in bad times. Tell what’s going on. Ask them to help you if you are not feeling well. Do lots of fun things with them.

Everything is pointless

Maybe you don’t feel like going to school anymore. What’s the point of it all? Understandable, but it doesn’t solve anything. On the contrary, soon you will not only have a sick father or mother, but you will also have to sit still. There are also young people who switch off their feelings and work extra hard. Don’t know how to handle it? Sound the alarm and someone needs to talk about it!

Swearing

Do you also explode when cancer swear words are used? There’s no point in freaking out, but there is no point in turning around, walking away and exhaling.

What helps?

  • Talking to someone who is important to you.
  • Help from your friends.
  • Chatting, vlogging, etc.
  • Write a poem.
  • Walking the dog.
  • Going to the gym, kickboxing, dancing, etc.
  • Kick the wall
  • Listen to music.
  • Make music

Do you know anything else that helps or do you also have a story? Then click on the bulletin board or send us an Get in touch

The future

Getting better

Fortunately, many parents get better again. The cancer stays away and the unpleasant time of hospital, treatments and being sad is over.

Some parents have been changed by the cancer and the treatments. They are missing a breast, have a scar or a stoma. Others have to do exercises every day to get stronger again. Sometimes you don’t notice anything on the outside, but there is still a lot of worry going on. Then your father or mother goes for a walk, cycle, work in the garden or make sculptures. Or they go and talk to someone. Because that helps. But of course you know that too.

Of course, your father or mother still has to go to the hospital every now and then to see if everything continues to go well. But that too diminishes after a while. The cancer becomes a memory. Maybe you’ll think about it again later, maybe you won’t. Everything is good.

If the cancer remains

If it is not possible to get rid of the cancer, medication can sometimes be used to keep the cancer cells stable. And when those medicines no longer work, there are sometimes new medicines available. So the cancer may not go away, but the situation may not become more serious. Your father or mother can live this way for a very long time.

However, your father or mother will have to go to the hospital regularly and the treatment will be adjusted if necessary. A lot of research into cancer is also being done. This provides new insights, from which new treatments arise. All of this takes a lot physically and mentally. It is therefore important to focus on quality of life. And that quality is different for every parent and every family.

It is very likely that your parent is no longer in great shape. It’s strange to know that the cancer won’t go away, but nice to know that your father or mother will still be around for a (long) time.

Dying

Once all options have been exhausted, the moment comes when your father or mother will die. Everything will go through you or you may not feel anything at all. Try to do something with that feeling. Talk about it with your parents, friends or doctor. Keep your wits about you and don’t run away, but remember that these are the last moments you have with your father or mother. Reminisce together. Maybe you can take some photos or a video.

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