According to a report out Friday from the American Cancer Society, childhood cancer rates are up but deaths have been on the decline. About 187 out of 1 million children under the age of 19 are diagnosed yearly with cancer, and this is a rate that has inched steadily upward over the last several years.
Certainly, the statistic that is considerably more positive is that childhood cancer death rates have dropped by 50 percent since 1975. This definitely offers a great deal of hope for those who have to deal with the tragic news that their child has been diagnosed with cancer. Blood and lymphatic cancers are among those cancers with death rates that have declined steadily over the years, and physicians anticipate that better treatment options have helped contribute to this decline.
It’s estimated that this year, 15,780 new cases of childhood cancers will crop up while tragically, some 1,960 cases will result in death. Cancer epidemiologist Jennifer Cullen, who works with the U.S. Department of Defense, notes that some cancers continue to pose devastating problems as they remain incurable and untreatable.
It’s believed that part of the reason why childhood cancer rates are up and deaths are on the decline is that while treatment options have improved, there are only very few childhood cancers that have known preventable causes. This has meant that many parents continue to be lost for ways of how to prevent cancer in their children. In addition, definitive diagnosis of a childhood cancer is made more difficult because some childhood cancer symptoms are very similar to other common childhood ailments.
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 530 adults between the ages of 20 to 39 is a childhood cancer survivor. Survival hasn’t come without a cost, however; while surgical survival rates have improved, the delivery of such therapies as chemotherapy and radiation has resulted in long-term health effects. Children recovering from cancer of the brain, for instance, may find they experience side effects such as seizures, blindness and deafness, among other serious issues, as a result of other cancer therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy.
Cullen noted that while she was better prepared from an informational standpoint to deal with childhood cancer, she wondered how those parents with work schedules that wouldn’t allow them time to accompany their children to medical appointments or those parents with limited medical knowledge could cope with a child’s cancer diagnosis.
American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Dr. Otis M. Brawley said there was still a great deal of work to do in order to understand the events on a molecular level that occurred to cause childhood cancers. He promoted further studies into how to minimize the serious side effects that children and their families had to deal with following treatment. He encouraged medical professionals to continue to be aware of the fact that some childhood cancers continue to be problematic as far as treatment options are concerned.
While childhood cancer rates are up and the death rates have fallen, medical professionals seem to agree that more work needs to be done as far as minimizing the impact of the terrible medical treatments that those dealing with cancer treatments experience.
By Christina St-Jean