The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 200 000 children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer, though many cases may be unreported. It is one of the leading causes of death among children.
Childhood cancer is commonly used to designate cancers diagnosed in individuals below 18 years old. This international day aims to raise awareness and support to all those affected by this problems, children, teenagers, parents or other caregivers, as it places a great burden, emotional and economic to all parties involved.
In the USA, there were over 10 000 diagnosed childhood cancer cases in 2016. Nearly 90% are expected to survive. Although the survival rate has increased, it remains the leading cause of death among children in this country. In Portugal, there are around 350 cases every year and the survival rates are also high, in line with the high-income countries.
Cancer in children and teenagers tend to be different than those happening among adults. More common cancers among adults like breast, lung and colon cancer are rare among children, while leukemia represents a third of the cases among children and teenagers. There are also some tumors that only occur specifically among children, like neuroblastoma, nephroblastoma, medulloblastoma and retinoblastoma.
Causes & Treatment
Genetic factors, radiation and viruses like Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis B, Human Herpes and HIV are some of the identified factors that can contribute to a higher risk of childhood cancer, but exact causes are still unknown. Common treatments include: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplant. Treatment depends on the type and the stage of cancer.
According to the WHO, nearly 80% of children living in high-income countries can expect to survive five years or longer after the cancer diagnosis. Children in such countries are followed regularly by doctors. Over 90% of deaths related to childhood cancer occur in lower-income countries.
Pediatric oncology is the specialty that deals with these cases. To learn more about pediatric consultations click here.