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Childhood Cancer

Because of better treatment methods, outcomes for childhood cancer patients have improved.

About 2,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S.  Childhood cancer was once thought to be untreatable, but today most children who have cancer can overcome it.  Dr. Daniel Niebrugge, assistant professor of pediatric hematology/oncology at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains the most common childhood cancers.

SOUND BITE:     “The most common type of cancer that we see is called acute lymphocytic leukemia.  It’s a bit different in that we don’t see that much in adults. The other type of leukemia – acute myelognous leukemia, or called AML, that’s seen in adults as well.   We see kidney cancer, something called Wilms tumor.  We see bone tumors.  We see brain tumors.

Dr. Niebrugge, who also is one of the cancer specialists at SIU’s Simmons Cancer Institute, says the most common age group of children who are diagnosed with leukemia are preschool and elementary school ages.  Many of his patients receive the benefits of enrolling in national clinical trials, which means they have access to medications that may have fewer side effects.   He says survival rates are improving.

SOUND BITE:    “There are certain groups with childhood leukemia that have 85 to 90 percent cure rate.  So we’ve done very well.  And, not only is there a very high cure rate, but it is almost outpatient.  It takes very little time in the hospital.  Because the therapy has been worked out so there’s not much side-effects with that and kids do very well.”

Dr. Niebrugge says today most children with cancer can have a normal life – they can go to school and participate in regular childhood activities.  As for warning signs, any child who has persistent fever or bone pain lasting for a few weeks should be seen by their pediatrician or primary care physician.  The child may be referred to a pediatric oncologist for further evaluation and possible treatment.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.