About Childhood Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, childhood cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death among children past infancy. The causes of most childhood cancers are not known and cannot be prevented. Most are thought to develop from gene mutations that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and eventually cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, the types of cancers that develop in children are often different from those that develop in adults. The duration and types of treatments are dependent on the type of cancer and the child’s response. Treatment is customized for each child, so daily, weekly or monthly chemotherapy treatments may be needed. Depending on the type of cancer and therapy plan, Rady Children’s becomes their home for days, weeks and even months at a time. For some pediatric cancers, treatment protocols may last years, and all pediatric oncology patients are followed by the Peckham Center’s oncology care team into their adult lives due to increased risk of complications from their cancer treatments.
Treating frightened children with cancer, and their equally overwhelmed parents, requires a special approach. Since treatment regimens are long and arduous, a specially trained care team is needed: oncologists, hematologists, radiation oncologists, infectious disease specialists, radiologists, pediatric surgeons, psychologists, nurses and nurse practitioners, dieticians, child life specialists, social workers, parent liaisons and chaplains.
During the past 40 years, survival rates have improved dramatically. The average 5-year survival rate for childhood cancers when considered as a whole is 84 percent.
The good news is that pediatric cancer is more treatable and survivable than ever before, thanks in part to investments donors make every day.