In one of the most comprehensive studies to date, the American Cancer Society reported Friday that cases of adolescent and childhood cancer are on the rise, affecting 187 per one million children. The flip side of the report states that death rates for these kids has decreased by 50 percent since 1975, averaging 24 deaths per one million children in 2010. Approximately one in 285 children will be diagnosed with the disease before the age of 20.
Although childhood cancer is far less common than those in adults, there has been a rise in the diagnosis of blood and lymphatic cancers. Increases have been seen in acute lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, two of the most prevalent types of the disease in children. The steady increase in these cancers can be attributed to better diagnostics and better technologies. It is often difficult for parents to spot early warning signs in children as they appear to mimic other childhood illnesses.
The decrease in death rates can also be attributed to technology. Advancements in medical procedures, as well as radiation and chemotherapies have helped to decrease deaths in mostly blood and lymphatic cancer patients. This has not been seen across the board. According to U.S. Department of Defense cancer epidemiologist, Jennifer Cullen, “we have seen successes for some cancers, but others remain incurable and untreatable.” This is the case with diffuse intrinsic potine giloma, a brain tumor found in children. For these young ones, the average death remains less than one year after diagnosis.
Not only has there been progress for blood and lymphatic types of the disease, there has been much progress in cancers of the Central Nervous System. However, with the rise of childhood cancer rates, even with better treatment options, many kids find themselves battling life-long side effects. Some common side effects in children with tumors include seizures, weakness in the arms and legs, blindness, hearing loss and hypothyroidism. There are many other side effects associated with a wide variety of cancers.
Little is known about what causes childhood cancer. There is a far better understanding of what actually causes cancer in adults. With all the progress that has been made, scientists and researchers still have little insight as to why this occurs and how to prevent it in childhood. Cancer in adults is far more likely to be prevented and treatable.
The American Cancer Society’s report also focuses on what areas of research need to be investigated and what areas of research are working well. Technological advances are certainly helping with the increase in diagnoses and treatment options, though still fails to advance many types of the deadly disease.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children and adolescents from zero to 19. The promising aspect lays in the fact that children are actually living with the disease. Even though the actual number of cases of childhood cancer may be on the rise, there is promise in the advancement of the treatments, based on the number of deaths associated. However, in order to ensure a healthy generation going forward, scientists intend to keep this deadly disease front-and-center for the medical community .
By Shannon Malone