Childhood cancers are the No 1 killer disease of children – more than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and paediatric AIDS combined.
Childhood cancer spares no ethnic group, socioeconomic class, or geographic region.
Many different types fall into 12 major categories of childhood cancer. Common adult cancers are extremely rare in children, and many cancers are found almost exclusively in children.
Most childhood cancers result from genetic mutations in the rapidly developing body. Causes of these mutations are unknown, and at present cannot be prevented. Most adult cancers result from lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, occupation, and other exposure to cancer-causing agents.
Cancer affects children and young adults differently than adults, requiring special treatment and supportive care to protect the whole child.
Detecting cancer in children early leads to more favourable treatment response. However, awareness of childhood cancer remains limited, resulting in more advanced stage of cancer at diagnosis. Approximately 80% of children have metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread), compared with 20% of adults with cancer.
4,000 children develop cancer every year In the UK – 11 every day.
While 75% of children survive cancer today in the UK, 1,000 children still die every year, and the journey to cure causes long term side effects for many survivors.
Cures remain elusive for some forms of childhood cancer, including brain stem tumors, stage IV neuroblastoma, metastatic sarcomas, metastatic retinoblastoma, relapsed acute leukaemia, and relapsed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.