Childhood Cancer Awareness
Cancer has been one of the leading causes of death among all age groups for many, many years. Almost everyone knows someone that has been affected by cancer, whether it was a family member, friend, friend of a friend, a coworker, or the guy who used to fix your plumbing. Typically when people think of a cancer patient they imagine older people who have lived full lives; however, the most affected age group is aged 15 to 39, meaning that teenagers and young adults are struggling with cancer more frequently than elderly populations. The gruesome reality is that children are a highly affected age group. Cancer is in the top three causes of death for children. For ages 1-4 it is the 3rd leading cause of death, for 5-9 it is 2nd, and for ages 10-14 it is also third. When someone in the family is sick it is always hard, but when a child is sick it can be more unexpected and more draining to watch and go through treatment. Childhood cancer is commonly looked over because it is shielded by a cloud of sadness. Every family believes that scary things won’t happen to them, but the truth is that every year in the US over 15,000 families deal with a child ages 0-19 getting diagnosed with cancer. Globally there are 300,000 children diagnosed with cancer. Nearly every 3 minutes a family somewhere in the world hears the devastating words from their doctor that their child is sick with cancer. Cancer is the most common cause of death by disease for kids. The survival rate for childhood cancer is about 80%, which seems quite high, but that still means that out of the nearly 15,000 children diagnosed around 3,000 die due to their cancer. While these numbers are quite scary, the survival of childhood cancer continues to increase as time goes on and technology advances. Due to the development of the immune system and young, flexible bodies, children are more resilient and able to bounce back from sicknesses, and the same has been shown for cancers. On the other hand, most doctors prefer to not operate if not absolutely necessary on children, so typically kids with cancer have chemotherapy regimens that include going into hospitals or facilities multiple times for a period of time to get chemo through an IV that is accompanied by a specific drug regimen. Other common treatments are radiation, stem cell treatments, immunotherapy, and surgery when it seems safe and necessary. The most common types of cancer in young children are leukemia, brain, and other central nervous system tumors, and lymphomas. Leukemia is cancer that affects bone marrow or other blood-forming organs. Leukemia is considered a type of cancer that has a somewhat cure, although the “curable” treatment may not always work. Chemotherapy is a big component in treating leukemia, but the best results have been seen by patients who receive bone marrow transplants. When treating leukemia there are other treatment options, although the options listed previously have been seen to work the best. There are a wide variety of brain and central nervous system tumors either in the brain or spinal cord and can have a very large range of locations and symptoms. There are13 categories of cancer that have commonly been seen beginning or spreading to the brain or spinal cord. A few of these categories of CNS (central nervous system) cancers are gliomas, astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, ependymomas, and meningiomas. Lymphomas are cancers that affect components of your immune system, like the lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow. Lymphomas are considered to be a rarer cancer for adults. Having a sick child can be beyond stressful. You may be spending hours in a hospital in post-op or pre-op with a mind full of concern and worried thoughts. Parents of these kids may have to rearrange schedules to get them to treatments, and because of the treatment, you may have to adjust their diets or daily living activities. When treatments don’t work and the cancer isn’t gone or progresses, sometimes families turn to clinical studies. Clinical trials are experiments for new cancer treatments and to find new ways to use current treatments. While topics such as childhood cancer are difficult to discuss due to the intensity of emotion involved, they need to be discussed and evaluated so survival rates globally continue to increase.