Cancer in childhood is uncommon. Out of 10,000 normal children, one will develop cancer during their childhood. The initial diagnosis can be frightening and stressful for child and his/her parents. These emotions are not out of place and quite understandable but they are also compounded by lack of information as well as some misconceptions. In most cases, there is no specific reason or cause for the child to have developed cancer as it is no one’s fault, so parents should not feel ashamed or guilty. The good news is that all childhood cancers are treatable and most are curable.
The cancers can affect any part of the body- the most common affected are bones, blood, and muscles. The familiar cancers include: blood cancers (leukemia), cancers of the lymphatic system, (lymphomas), cancer of the brain and spinal cord, muscle and bone cancers (sarcomas) and other cancers seen in the very young children (embryonal cancers). As of today, more than 80% of children with cancer get cured, depending upon the type of cancer they are suffering from. Like for some cancers acute lymphoblastic leukemia and Wilms tumour, there is 90% cure rate, while that for Hodgkin disease and germ cell tumours, it is almost 95%.
Children are not adults; their needs are different and need to be treated by someone who is trained to look after them. Paediatric oncologists are responsible for treating all malignant conditions among children like leukemia, bone cancers, Wilms tumor, brain and spinal cord tumors among several others. With timely, appropriate and complete treatment, majority of children with cancer get cured and can lead their lives peacefully.
Information and support are important to feel sure about the treatment. The more you know about cancer, the less confused or unprepared you will feel. Regular parent support group meetings should be attended, which will be an opportunity for parents of children with cancer to meet other parents whose children are either being treated or have completed treatment.