We hear the word Cancer and it sounds so scary to us as adults. Now imagine it’s your child.
This month is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. More children are being diagnosed with cancer today than ever before. Though pediatric cancer death rates have declined nearly 70% over the past forty years, cancer is still the leading cause of death from disease among children. We’d like to do our part to help educate families in our own community about childhood cancer.
Worldwide during the month of September:
- 25,000 families around the world will get the horrible news that their child or teen has cancer
- 6,667 families will experience the loss of a child due to cancer
In the United States in 2016, an estimated 10,380 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among children from birth to 14 years, and about 1,250 children are expected to die from the disease. The major types of cancers in children ages 0 to 14 years are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), brain and other central nervous system (CNS) tumors, and neuroblastoma, which are expected to account for more than half of new cases in 2016.
What’s causing this rise in cancer? Most causes are not known and only about 5% of all pediatric cancers are caused by a genetic mutation that can be passed from parents to their children. In adults, cumulative effects of aging and long-term exposure to cancer-causing substances. However, identifying environmental causes in children is difficult to determine.
Thanks to pediatric oncology specialists and researchers, 80% of childhood cancer cases can be successfully treated. Like treating other cancer patients, treating children’s cancer depends on the type of cancer and and how advanced it is.
Common treatments include: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplant. However, treatment in children can have different effects than on adults. Children may receive a more intense regimen of medications and the effects on their growing bodies can cause drugs to respond differently than if they were adults. The treatments can also have negative consequences later in life.
For children to receive the best treatment and have the greatest chance of beating the disease, seek a specialist at a hospital that specializes in treating children with cancer. Most pediatric oncology centers treat patients up to 20 years old. The centers that treat children provide comprehensive care for the child. Specialists at a children’s cancer center are likely to include primary care physicians, pediatric medical oncologists/hematologists, pediatric surgical specialists, radiation oncologists, rehabilitation specialists, pediatric nurse specialists, social workers, and psychologists. At these centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children, and the opportunity to participate in a trial is offered to many patients.
Coping with cancer is a family challenge. You want to encourage the child and stay strong, but that can be difficult with this diagnosis. There are books and guides for parents along with ways to help siblings cope, and how to work with the health care providers. The National Cancer Institute website is a wealth of information for parents and families. Download the Children with Cancer guide for information on talking with your child, treatments, clinical trials, support, and other resources.
Surviving a battle with cancer is a major success, to say the least. But, it’s important to follow-up with your child’s doctors to monitor your child’s health since late effects of cancer treatment are of particular concern. A survivorship plan will be created specifically for your child and will include information such as:
- Exams and tests/procedures to check for the recurrence or metastasis of cancer, and a schedule of when they are needed;
- Care and support to manage any long-term side effects and check for late effects;
- Psychosocial support or counseling, and referrals as needed;
- Referrals for legal aid or financial support, as needed;
- Referrals to, and coordination with, specialists such as cardiologists, education specialist, endocrinologists,physical therapists, and psychologists and to appropriate treatments, clinical studies, and rehabilitation specialists;
- Recommendations for healthy behaviors, such as advice regarding nutrition and physical exercise;
- Family-based care, education, and outreach to your child and family.
Have a support network of friends, family and medical professionals from the first diagnosis through the survival process is one of the keys to beating the disease.
Source: National Institute of Health