Treatment advances and breakthroughs in medication have resulted in the death rate from childhood cancer declining by 74% during the past ten years.
Ten years ago, the annual childhood cancer death rate was about 330. This figure has declined to about 260, which is a decrease of 22% in total.
The success rate has been better for certain cancers. The death rates linked to chronic myeloid leukaemia have declined by 74%, non-Hodgkin Lymphoma by 35% and liver cancer by 26%.
Leukaemia is the most commonly diagnosed form and a decade ago more than 100 children died from it each year, however that has now declined by 50%.
Health experts are concerned about the small increase in bone and brain cancers.
The director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit, Professor Pam Kearns, said it is encouraging to see the decline in number, but more needs to be done. She said that there are still cancers where progress has not been adequate, such as brain tumours. She added that many children have to live with the long-term side effects of treatment, so it is important that more effective, kinder treatments are found for them.
Much of the success that has been gained is due to the combination of chemotherapy drugs. Radiotherapy and imaging methods have improved over the past 10 years and tumours can now be located and targeted accurately.
It is stated that about 1600 children are diagnosed with cancer annually in Britain. The survival rate overall has trebled since the 1960s and about 75% of children diagnosed with cancer are currently being cured.
According to Harpal Kumar, the chief executive at Cancer Research UK, great progress has been made in helping children survive the disease, however the work is not complete.
September is Children’s Cancer Awareness Month and Cancer Research UK, along with TK Maxx has offered funding for a new clinical trial to try and improve the survival rate of children and young adults with a specific form of brain tumour by the name of ependymoma.
Ependymomas are known to be the third most common brain tumour in children, with approximately half being under the age of five. Generally, 43% of children diagnosed with the tumour will not live longer than about five years.
The University of Nottingham’s Professor Richard Grundy said the funding has made it possible to undertake clinical trials which have resulted in huge treatment improvements for childhood cancer. However, he stated that ependymoma brain tumours are especially difficult to treat and the survival rates still remain poor.
Image Credit: Lindsey G