Focus On Pediatrics-Program for girls focuses on cancer prevention

Program demystifies hospital experience

For years, the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute in Columbus, OH, has been providing tours for children who have parents or grandparents with cancer to demystify the hospital experience or teach the general youth community about cancer prevention. Recently, the cancer center gave the program a new twist, tailoring it to junior high and high school girls at the request of the Seal of Ohio Girl Scouts Council. Breast and cervical health components, as well as career exploration were added to the program. Also, the program was lengthened into a daylong seminar with breakfast and lunch served, and mothers were encouraged to accompany their daughters.

"We thought it was a great idea to partner these young girls with their moms," says Pauline King, MS, RN, CS, director for children programming and a psychosocial clinical nurse specialist at the hospital. It provides an opportunity to educate mothers about the importance of being a good role model and having mammograms and Pap smears as well as doing breast self-exams. "We are teaching girls to form good habits while teaching moms to change bad habits."

"In the Pink" begins with a breakfast. All attendees are given an overview of what will happen during the day, and the girls are given bags to carry the information they collect and charts to help make the experience personal. The charts have tabs for each department that is included in the tour, such as the operating room, radiation, chemotherapy, mammography, and physical therapy.

In each department, participants have their photo taken so they can place it in the appropriate section of the chart. For example, in the operating room they have their photo taken while they are dressed for surgery and operating on a dummy. The charts, which include lots of cancer prevention information, become a personal memento that they read time and again. "It becomes a wonderful, ongoing teaching tool," explains King.

Education is a key part of the tour. In each department, a female professional tells the girls about the job they do explaining what they like about it and what they don’t. The girls have time to ask questions as well, and make notes about career choices in a special section on their charts. The professional also provides information on the purpose of the department. For example, in the mammography department, the girls are shown the X-ray machine and see a video on mammograms. They also view X-rays to see what is normal and what is abnormal. Breast models are used to teach self-exams, and each participant receives a shower card with step-by-step instructions.

Teach prevention

Cancer prevention education also is an important component of the teaching in many departments. For example, in radiology, the lesson is on the dangers of tobacco, including second-hand smoke and chewing tobacco. In the laboratory area, skin cancer prevention is discussed. During the luncheon, two young female dietitians talk about the importance of nutrition in cancer prevention.

"We find easy ways to get the girls to remember the lessons. For skin cancer prevention, we use the slip, slap, slop slogan, and for remembering the importance of good nutrition we use the five-a-day rule," says King. The slogan stands for slip on a long-sleeved shirt, slap on a hat, and slop on sunscreen. The five-a-day rule is five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Participants are given a preknowledge questionnaire before the tour begins at 9 a.m. and a post-tour questionnaire before they leave at 4:30 p.m. as a self-assessment. The girls also fill out a healthy life contract where they pledge not to smoke, to do regular breast self-exams, to get a Pap smear starting at age 18, and to use the slip, slap, slop method of skin cancer prevention. Both the girls and their mothers sign the contracts.

Great program, but too expensive

The only downside to In the Pink is the cost, says King. It runs about $800, but the James Cancer Hospital and Seal of Ohio Girl Scouts Council share the cost. Because it is so costly, King requires a group of at least 25 girls plus their mothers to organize the tour.

Currently, In the Pink is held twice a year with Girl Scout groups participating, but King is hoping that other groups might take advantage of the program in the future. "It is a good model partnering girls with their moms. While it is focused on the girls, one of the real positive outcomes is having mom do Pap smears, mammograms, and breast self-exams on a regular basis," says King.

For more information about In the Pink, contact:

Pauline King, MS, RN, CS, Director for Children Programming and Psychosocial Clinical Nurse Specialist, James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, 300 W. 10th Ave., Room 004, Columbus, OH 43210. Telephone: (614) 293-4138. E-mail: