Topeka Facility Makes Cancer Treatment Less Scary For Kids

TOPEKA, Kan. - Cancer is a scary word - especially when the person diagnosed is a child.

But with bright colors, toys and books, Topeka's Stormont-Vail Cancer Center hopes a few small changes will make all those trips to the doctor a little less scary for kids with cancer.

Dr. Jakica Tancabelic, a pediatric oncologist/hematologist at the Cancer Center, says the more welcoming environment will allow children to be more comfortable in coming to the facility.

When it opened six years ago, Stormont's Cancer Center only saw patients over age 16. Tancebelic joined three years ago, giving younger patients an option other than traveling to Kansas City for treatments that can be weekly or more often.

Tancabelic says it's not only more convenient for families, but the expense of gasoline and taking time from work can quickly add up - not to mention the several hours round trip traveling in a car for a child who isn't feeling well.

Families have appreciated the option so much that Stormont recently added a second pediatric oncologist/hematologist, Dr. Youmna Othman. It allows for more patients to be seen and a 24/7 rotation of care, complimented by a network of services. Tancablic says they are building a support system that includes nutrition, social work, case management and more.

As for the environment, the facility now has a play room with volunteers who attend to patients and siblings. They also purchased a Wii, so children can pass the time playing games while they receive a long treatment.

While those might seem like merely fun extras, Tancabelic says studies in adults show lower stress and anxiety levels means better response to treatment, so it makes sense to help put kids at ease, too.

"It's a very hard time to deal with cancer so this is the least we can do to make it easier," she said.

The treatment room makeovers were done with support from the Westar Energy Foundation and Stormont-Vail Foundation.