Childhood cancers are different to adult cancers in most cases, and respond in different ways to treatment. Children are not just mini adults.
Childhood cancer types
Leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer in the UK forming almost a third of cases. It also has one of the best survival rates, possibly because it is the cancer type that most clinicians are familiar with the warning signs of, leading to an earlier diagnosis. However, treatment is grueling, lasting up to 2 years for girls and 3 years for boys.
The next most common tumour type are brain tumours, which make up just over a quarter of cases. There are many different brain tumour types, some with excellent survival rates, but some with very poor survival rates too. A further 11% of cases are caused by lymphoma.
Together, the most common forms of cancer in children (brain tumours, leukaemia and lymphomas) make up about two thirds of cases of childhood cancers.
The rest (a third of all cases of childhood cancer) are made up of the "rare sub types." There are almost 200 different types so when looked at in isolation, they really are rare. However, but when looked at together, they still form a third of all cases so these types must not be discounted.
Grace's tumour type (Malignant Rhabdoid tumour) fell into the "rare childhood cancer category." Devastatingly, it has has one of the worst survival rates of all childhood cancers (along with DIPG, a type of brain tumour).
A third of children with cancer therefore have one of the rare childhood cancers. It is these cancers that generally have poorer survival rates and are making less progress in terms of research and improved survival.
It is these rare solid tissue tumours of childhood that Grace Kelly Ladybird Trust is concentrating on in terms of fundraising for research as these are the least well funded.
However, our awareness work is so important for all childhood cancer types. Early recognition of the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer is so important, and something we are working so hard to improve.
Rare childhood cancers
Soft tissue tumours – These include tumours of the skin and muscle (rhabdomyosarcoma).
Kidney (renal tumours) – The most common type are Wilms tumours (this has the best survival).
Other less common tumours incude Malignant rhabdoid tumours, clear cell and renal cell sarcomas.
Bone tumours – Ewings sarcoma and osteosarcoma. These can present at times with very few symptoms.
Neuroblastoma – Neuroblastoma is a cancer of specialised nerve cells, called neural crest cells.
These cells are used in the development of the nervous system. This type of tumour only occurs in children.
Germ cell tumours – Usually a cancer in the ovary or testicles
Retinoblastoma (eye) – These usually occur in babies and very young children
Liver (hepatic) tumours – Typically again affect younger children and have seen some good improvements in survival rates.
There are over 200 types of childhood cancers in total. A huge number to share the funding between.
Which is the good cancer type to have?
The honest answer is none of them.
All childhood cancers require grueling unpleasant treatments and can leave the child with life long health problems and disabilities. Even leukaemia, the type sometimes deemed as the best type to get results in a number of deaths, grueling treatments lasting up to 3 years for boys and for many children life long, often disabling side effects.
Certain diagnoses, such at MRT (malignant rhabdoid tumours) and DIPG ( a type of brain tumour) however are much worse than others, with very poor survival rates, but all types of childhood cancer are life changing and devastating for the affected child and their family.
The answer, to join our fight against childhood cancer today.
For more information, see www.gracekellyladybird.co.uk for more details.