Childhood Cancer

Childhood CancerChildhood cancer accounts for less than 1% of new cancer diagnoses in Canada. In comparison to adult cancer, it is relatively uncommon; however, it is still the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 6 months and 14 years (though its incidence is at its highest during the first 5 years od a child’s life) and 1 in every 5 children will succumb to the disease. An estimated 1 out of every 250 adults between the ages of 20 and 39 are survivors of childhood cancer. More cancer statistics can be found on Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Blogspot page by clicking here.

Leukemia, lymphomas and cancers of the brain and/or the CNS (Central Nervous System) account for the majority of malignant childhood cancers.

Unlike certain types of cancers that are found in adults, the cause of childhood cancer is relatively unknown. A definitive link to any specific factors – such as environmental or lifestyle factors – has not been fully established. In adults, some of these factors that can contribute to cancer include whether or not the patient is a smoker, overexposure to radiation/carcinogens, hormones, obesity, chronic inflammation, and other viruses. Adults will also usually be at an increased risk of developing cancer if there is a family history of it.

While some children may be too young to discern the diagnosis that they are facing, others will, and it can oftentimes be an overwhelming and undoubtedly scary process. When talking to a child about how to cope with cancer, Dr. Ali Ghahary says it is important to be as open and honest as possible, while ensuring you’re using terms that the child is able to understand. For example, rather than using words like “oncologist,” “radiation,” or “chemotherapy,” use words that the child is already familiar with, such as “doctor” and “medicine.” Children will often wonder what they did to deserve being diagnosed with cancer and may feel a sense of blame, so it is also important to reassure them that such a diagnosis is not their fault. As cancer can disrupt a child’s routine, explain to them that they may not be able to do the things they are used to doing – such as going to school or seeing their friends – but try to implement different ways for them to do that, such as communicating with friends via telephone calls, and incorporating at-home activities into their routine, such as colouring. Having a sense of normalcy may better help the child feel more at ease despite the difficult diagnosis.

BC Children's Hospital - Support for ChildrenWhen a child is diagnosed with cancer, they will usually be referred for treatment at a children’s facility – such as BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. These types of hospitals are specifically specialized in diagnosing and treating children with cancer and other childhood-related illnesses and diseases, and they provide comprehensive care in addition to support for children and their families. Together, the Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program and BC Children’s Hospital work fervently in performing cutting-edge research to inaugurate enhanced methods of treatment for childhood cancer. In addition, the hospital holds various fundraisers, including the annual Miracle Weekend, which raised $20,300,680 this past May, making the total amount raised since 1987 a historic $300 million.