Childhood Cancer Facts

Happy Children Playing On The Beach

Cancer by definition is a disease or tumorous growth due to abnormal cells growing uncontrollably and affecting how healthy cells operate. Whether it’s cancerous growth in an adult or child, that remains the same. However due to a child’s growing body and organs, childhood cancers need their own specialized medicines and therapy treatments. Not only for each type of childhood cancers but for each subtype too, in order to help lessen the side effects and late effects. Over the years, developments in childhood cancer research have shown great progress while raising the awareness for more specialized areas of research.

Overview Analysis

  • Childhood cancer is a term that stands for more than just 1 disease, such as Leukemia, rather it emcompasses more than 12 major types of childhood cancers plus all of their hundreds of subtypes. The Major Types of Childhood Cancers include:
    • Bone Cancers: such as Osteosarcoma
    • Brain Cancers / Brain Stem Tumors: such as DIPG
    • Blood Cancers: such as Leukemia
    • Liver Cancers: such as Hepatoblastoma
    • Lymphoma: including both Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s
    • Nerve Cancers: such as Neuroblastoma
    • Eye Cancers: such as Retinoblastoma
    • Rhabdoid Tumors
    • Soft Tissue Cancers: such as Sarcomas 
    • Spinal Cord Tumors
    • Kidney Tumors: such as Wilms Tumor
  • In this year alone, it is estimated over 10,000 children younger than 14 years old and over 5,000 teenagers ages 15 – 19 years old will be diagnosed with cancer
  • The CCC has shared that the average age at diagnosis is
    • from ages 0 to 19: 10 years old
    • From ages 0 to 14: 6 years old 
    • From ages 15 to 19: 17 years old 
    • while adults’ average age for cancer diagnosis is 66.

According to ACCO

  • Early diagnosis of childhood cancer is often difficult which gives the tumor more time to grow and spread
  • About 1 in 285 children will develop cancer before the age of 20, on top of that, 1 out of 6 children with cancer in America do not survive five years 
  • Despite advances in medicine, some types of cancer remain incurable and cancer still remains as the #1 cause of death by disease for children in America while 44% of childhood cancer cases worldwide are never diagnosed

Pediatric Cancer Treatments and Survivorship

  • Adjusting to life with cancer is vital to a child’s wellbeing during and after treatments. Support from family, friends, and their community have shown children are less likely to have problems
  • Thanks to new breakthroughs in medicine and therapies, the 5 year life expectancy for childhood cancer survivors have steadily increased.  From 48.5 years expectancy in the 70’s increasing to 57.1 years within two decades. In comparison, the normal life expectancy for adults is 80.
  • As children’s bodies are still growing, cancer, in addition to its treatments, have a greater effect on organs compared to cancer treatments for adults as they are still developing
  • Studies show that by the time childhood cancer survivors reach 45 years of age, more than 95% will develop a chronic health condition as a side effect of cancer treatments
  • Affordability concerns and difficulties paying medical bills are one of the greatest factors in delaying much needed follow-up medical care in cancer survivors 

Side Effects of Cancer on Families

  • Beyond just treating the disease itself, additional support for the pain, symptoms, and the ever present stresses of cancer is just as important to leading a better quality of life 
  • According to the AHRQ, a study found pediatric hospitalizations principally for cancer were 8 days longer and cost nearly 5 times as much as hospitalizations for other conditions in 2009
  • As a result of work disruptions related to childhood cancer treatments, 1 in 4 families typically lose around 40% of their annual household income
  • Siblings are affected due to the disruption of day-to-day routines. In addition, they have an increased risk of developing emotional and behavioral issues (anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and more)
  • In the following months of their child’s diagnosis, parent’s own healthy behaviors worsen. From the neglect of nutrition and decreased physical activity to simply enjoying a pleasant activity

Prevention Tactics

  • As risk factors are difficult to identify for most childhood cancers, public health campaigns typically don’t have a significant effect on the amount of children diagnosed
  • It has been noted that taking vitamins and supplements while trying to become pregnant and during pregnancy have a protective effect on the offspring
  • Studies have shown exposures to pesticides, tobacco smoke, solvents, and traffic emissions consistently are a cause of increased risk in developing childhood leukemia
  • In addition, exposure to industrial chemicals, radiation, and other toxic substances have linked to risk increases of developing leukemia
  • Imaging tests such as MRI scans, X-rays, and CT scans are potential hazards, especially to children as they are more radiosensitive than adults. 
  • A possible concern in terms of cancer development is the exposure of parents to ionizing radiation, such as X-rays while pregnant, as this could also affect the offspring

These points all show how important new medicine and therapy developments truly are. New developments will have a cascading effect on each aspect of cancer. The end goal isn’t just finding ways to help lower the mortality rate, it’s also to help survivors and their families live a better quality of life. In order for these treatment breakthroughs to happen, they need a lot of support. There are many ways to get involved, from raising funds to simply showing support, attending events, raising awareness, and more. Next time we’ll cover ways for everyone to get involved without monetary donations so check back in later!