Cancer treatments made gentler, yet child survival improved

By Kate Hassett

Cancer treatments made gentler, yet child survival improved
A new study reveals that cancer treatment, whilst gentler than the average dose, has seen more children surviving than ever before.

Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy have saved the lives of countless children suffering from cancer; however, some of these treatments have long-term effects, leading to damage on the heart and other organs. The problems associated with these treatments can extend beyond the life of the cancer and have adverse effects on the patient years later.

In an effort to combat this risk, doctors in the 1990’s began to push smaller, more targeted doses of radiation, along with changing the chemo process and avoiding certain drugs.

The doctors wanted answers to the question: Would gentler treatments have a negative impact on the survival rate of children?

Now results are being released that have followed more than 34,000 cancer survivors over several decades and the results have offered a resoundingly positive answer.

Research showed that survival continued to improve whilst the doses were made smaller and more targeted. Fewer children were shown to have died from secondary cancers or lung problems over 15 years after initial treatment concluded.

Dr. Greg Armstrong of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, leads the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.

“The field needs good news… we have actually reduced treatment, reduced therapy, and yet improved survival” he said.

Researches found that the death rate 15 years after treatment began upon a steady decline. The rate dropped from about 12 per cent for those treated from 1970-74 to 6 per cent for patients treated from 1990-94.

“Treating cancer is one of the miracles of modern medicine… Fifty years ago less than 30 per cent of kids would survive childhood cancer but now we know that over 80 per cent will”.

Dr. Armstrong said that studies will continue to be conducted around childhood cancer and tailoring treatment to eradicate long-term effects of radiation and other drugs.



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