Most cancers are uncommon in children, but incidence of childhood cancers continues to be in the forefront. Most cancers in children are now over 80% treatable thanks to research and improved treatment practices.
Childhood cancers are caused by abnormal cell growth in the blood or any other body tissues. Cancers can be malignant, or spread to other body tissues and organs; or non- malignant, which contain themselves within cell or organ borders and do not spread. Childhood cancers may not behave in the same way as adult cancers due to unknown reasons.
The most common types of childhood cancers are:
Leukemia, affecting approximately 34% of all pediatric cancers, which appears in one of two types:
ALL acute lymphoblastic leukemia
AML acute myeloid leukemia
Brain cancers and tumors, which account for about 27 % of all pediatric cancers. These types would include brain and spinal cord involvement, the most common types being:
Brain stem Glioma
Neuroblastomas, which are less common are a type of tumor from immature nerve cells
Over 20 different childhood cancers are noted and treated in the pediatric field.
Pediatric Cancer Treatment Options
Treatment options vary, from:
Holistic therapy and treatments depending on belief systems
Treatment may take from six months to years, depending on the location, type of cancer, whether it is benign or malignant, and other organs affected.
Physical and occupational therapy is often initiated during treatment to address concerns related to tissue damage and destruction either as caused by the disease or the treatment itself. Many neurological cancers, those of the brain and spinal cord, may cause nerve damage, hearing and vision loss, and cognitive changes during treatment. Again, depending of the type of cancer and treatment, life style changes are often required.
The good news is that over 80% of children diagnosed with pediatric cancers are able to reach states of remission.
Cost of Pediatric Cancer Treatments
The cost of leukemia treatments can be overwhelming. In the United States, one round of chemotherapy approximately costs $150,000 while a bone marrow transplant might cost $250,000 or more. Additional costs, including specialists, medication, hospitalization or other therapies add more to the final bill. India offers bone marrow transplants for up to $25,000, while medical patients in Singapore may receive treatments that range from
about $70,000 to $100,000.
In some cases, and depending on scenario, bone marrow transplant patients may save on costs if the donor is a sibling, otherwise the costs may an average of $400,000, including costs to find and type donors, undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and costs of the infusion treatment, doctors’ fees, hospital fees, and other expenses.
Chemo therapy cancer treatment of any kind is very expensive, and in the United States can run anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 a month depending on the drug and intake method. In Thailand, monthly costs run from $1,000 a month, while in India, costs average about $1,200 per month.
Medical patients traveling to foreign destinations such as South Korea or Costa Rica may save tens of thousands of dollars on the same treatments, including harvesting, and/or transportation of donors to the facility.
Obtaining Cancer Treatment
When looking for a doctor to help treat pediatric cancer patients, parents should look for cancer specialists. These specialists are trained in the field of oncology. Patients should look for experience, training, and that the specialist of their choice has been board- certified in specific areas of medicine. The physician who is board-certified in medical oncology or surgery will ensure their qualifications in their field.
In most cases, primary care physicians will refer patients to a cancer specialist. Medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, or the American College of Surgeons will be able to offer the names of cancer specialists, as well as through cancer organizations throughout the country of origin.
Pediatrics is a field of medicine that specifically focuses on children. This age group ranges from infants to 18 years old and involves the study, treatment and surgical procedures performed on children. A physician who treats children is called a pediatrician while a specialist performing surgery on children in any field may be called a pediatric surgeon.