Gold Ribbon: Childhood Cancer
Childhood cancers make up less than 1% of all cancers diagnosed each year. About 10,450 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014. Childhood cancer rates have been rising slightly for the past few decades.
Because of major treatment advances in recent decades, more than 80% of children with cancer now survive 5 years or more. Overall, this is a huge increase since the mid-1970s, when the 5-year survival rate was about 60%. Still, survival rates vary depending on the type of cancer and other factors. Survival rates for different cancer types are listed in the section, “Surviving childhood cancer.”
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children (after accidents). About 1,350 children younger than 15 years old are expected to die from cancer in 2014.
The types of cancers that develop in children are often different from the types that develop in adults. Childhood cancers are often the result of DNA changes in cells that take place very early in life, sometimes even before birth. Unlike many cancers in adults, childhood cancers are not strongly linked to lifestyle or environmental risk factors.
There are some exceptions, but childhood cancers tend to respond better to treatments such as chemotherapy (also called chemo). Children’s bodies also tend to handle chemotherapy better than adults’ bodies do. But cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation therapy can cause long-term side effects, so children who have had cancer will need careful follow-up for the rest of their lives.
Since the 1960s, most children and teens with cancer have been treated at specialized centers designed for them. Being treated in these centers offers the advantage of a team of specialists who know the differences between adult and childhood cancers, as well as the unique needs of children and teens with cancer and their families. This team usually includes pediatric oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists, pediatric oncology nurses, and nurse practitioners.
These centers also have psychologists, social workers, child life specialists, nutritionists, rehabilitation and physical therapists, and educators who can support and educate the entire family.
In the United States, most children with cancer are treated at a center that is a member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). All of these centers are associated with a university or children’s hospital. As we have learned more about treating childhood cancer, it has become even more important that treatment be given by experts in this area.
Any time a child is diagnosed with cancer, it affects every family member and nearly every aspect of the family’s life. For more information on cancer logon to www.cancer.org.