More than 15,000 children and adolescents up to 19 years old will receive a cancer diagnosis this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
After accidents, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14. Conditions most commonly affecting children include leukemia, lymphoma, and tumors affecting the bones or neural systems.
The causes of most childhood cancers are unknown. An estimated 5 percent are caused by an inherited genetic mutation. Unlike most cancers affecting adults, childhood cancers aren't influenced by lifestyle choices or environmental factors.
These biological distinctions often lead to rare cases or conditions that have yet to be studied, making reliable treatment more difficult to find for children and their families. Of the federal government cancer research dollars spent nationally, only 4 percent is dedicated to pediatric cancer.
Survivorship rates are improving with modern medicine, yet more than 75 percent of survivors will likely suffer from at least one chronic health condition. Up to one-third of childhood cancer survivors will become affected by a life-threatening condition later in life, often as a side-effect to previous treatment like chemotherapy.
How is treating cancer in children different from treating it in adults? Why hasn't there been more investment in combating childhood cancer? How do children and families cope after a cancer diagnosis and treatment?
- Greg Aune, M.D., Ph.D., childhood cancer survivor, UT Health San Antonio physician-scientist and pediatric oncologist
- Peter Houghton, Ph.D., director of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute
- Lindsey Bendele, mother of 11-year-old child with muscle cancer
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