10 Facts That You Should Know About Cancer.
Did you know that cancer cells are just regular cells that have mutated? What this means is that cancer is a disease that can affect each and every one of us. It’s estimated that 15,780 children will be diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and approximately 1,960 will not survive. Understanding what pediatric cancer is and how it develops is key.
Here are 10 facts that you should know about childhood or pediatric cancer:
Fact 1 – A tumor is a lump of tissue that is created by the collection of mutated cells in a particular area. Tumors can develop just about anywhere in the body including the kidneys, liver, brain and bones. These mutated cells are essentially healthy cells that have become sick. They crowd out the healthy cells and prevent them from doing their job of eliminating unhealthy cells from the body. The types of solid tumors that are most common in children are neuroblastomas, Ewing sarcomas and Wilms tumors.
Fact 2 – There are more than 100 sub-types of cancer. Although some forms of cancer are rarer than others, cancer can occur in pretty much every organ of the body including the skin as well as the lymphatic system and the blood. But, to make understanding easier, they are commonly named according to the organs or systems they effect.
The most common type of cancer found in children are Leukemia, Lymphoma and tumors that develop in the bones, organs or tissue.
Fact 3 – Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system. Our immune system is our bodies natural defense system. It helps to protect us from illness. Typically, the immune systems job is to find unhealthy cells or cells that don’t belong in the body, such as viruses and diseases, and destroy them. The immune system stores fighting cells called lymphocytes, which are stored in the lymphoid tissues in the body. Lymphocytes are released into the body when unhealthy cells are detected, but when a child develops Lymphoma, the cancer crowds out the healthy cells, preventing the lymphocytes from doing their job.
There are two types of Lymphoma found in children. Hodgkin disease or Hodgkin lymphoma patients have a 90% to 95% chance of being cured. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients have a 5-year survival rate that recently has increased from 45% to 87% in children younger than 15 years, and from 48% to 82% in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.
Fact 4 – Less than 4% of government cancer research funding goes towards pediatric cancer. The National Cancer Institute’s allocation for funding in 2016 is $5.21 billion dollars. Only a small portion of this funding is invested into research for pediatric cancers. These funds are typically spent on increasing our medical understanding of the disease, its causes and how human biology affects its progression. It is also spent on bringing cancer research to the public through clinical and treatment trials.
Fact 5 – Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in the U.S. of children under the age of 15. Unlike adult cancers, lifestyle influences have not been directly linked to the development of childhood cancers. Research has shown that exposure to radiation may contribute, but the major cause is due to the mutation of DNA in early developmental stages. In adults, typically the cause of the mutation is known, but in children it’s a question that still remains unanswered.
Fact 6 – Cancer is usually diagnosed in stages. The staging process provides healthcare practitioners with a single point of reference to compare cases between patients, research studies and clinical trials. What this means is that they are able to continuously assess the effectiveness of treatment plans on an ongoing basis and as new technologies and treatments are developed.
Each stage describes the severity of the cancer and the extent to which the original tumor has grown or spread. Stage 0 means that cancer has been found in one location. Stages 1 – 3 indicate the extent to which it has spread from where it originated, and stage 4 indicates that it has spread to a number of different organs throughout the body.
Fact 7– Cancer is a genetic disease. This doesn’t mean that only families who have a history of cancer are susceptible. This means that the cell mutations that cause cancer, occur in the genes of our body that control the way our cells function.
Fact 8 – A cancer that spreads to various parts of the body is called metastatic. Metastatic cancer cells, are cells that are identical to each other that develop in one part of the body and spread to other parts of the body. For example, a breast cancer that spreads into the lungs may form a mass in the lungs, but when examined more closely will not be identified as lung cancer, but instead a metastatic breast cancer or breast cancer that has spread.
Fact 9- Cancer is typically described by the types of cell mutations that occur.
Carcinomas are the most common types of cancer and are formed underneath the skin and in the lining of various organs such as the liver bladder and kidney.
Sarcomas are cancers that form inside of the bone and in soft tissue such as muscles, fat, blood vessels and lymph vessels.
Leukemias are cancers that start in the blood and form in the bone marrow. Leukemia does not form tumors but, instead, creates abnormal white blood cells that build up in the bone marrow. The bone marrow in our body is responsible for the creation of white and red blood cells. White blood cells act as antibodies to help our bodies fight infection and red blood cells supply oxygen to our organs and muscles.
Melanomas are cancers that affect melanin, the pigment that gives our skin color. Melanoma cancers are usually visible on the surface of the skin in the form of irregular moles or dark colored spots, but can sometimes also be found on the surface of the eye.
Fact 10 –95% of childhood cancer patients will have a significant health-related issue resulting from treatment. Physical and neurological conditions often develop as a result of treatment which may prevent childhood cancer survivors from fully participating or excelling in school, social activities and eventually work. This can inevitably lead to depression in later years and feelings of isolation.
The only way that we will be able to find a cure is to keep on fighting. Fighting for change. Fighting for more funding for pediatric cancer. Be a part of the change and helps us win the fight. Sign up to be a volunteer, get in touch to become a sponsor or share this post to help us spread the word. Your help, makes a world of difference.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, (JAMA. 2013:309 : 2371-2381)