Child Wellness: Treating children with cancer
There’s nothing worse than a child with diagnosed with cancer. 20 years ago the survival rate was grim. Today, the future of these children is brighter. Marcie Fraser reports.
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"The most common subtypes we see is childhood leukemia, specifically Childhood A.L.L., the second most common childhood tumors fall under the realm of brain tumors," said Dr. Joanne Porter, a pediatric oncologist.
Adults increase their risk of getting cancer with certain behaviors, for example, cigarette smoking, and drinking alcohol. But in children who get cancer, specifically leukemia, the cause is their DNA.
"We know that in some forms of leukemia we have begun to identify DNA changes and because leukemia is a cancer of the blood we have been able to study what those DNA changes are, so that is helping us develop medication and helping us develop treatment protocols,” said Dr. Porter.
Compared to an adult, treatment therapies for a child are similar but delivered at different intensities.
"I worry about the drugs I order and how they might hurt a developing brain," said Dr. Porter.
When children are given medication, they are monitored, and any side effects are promptly managed.
"In any case we can offset side effects we will give a medication with the drug to lessen the intensity or monitor," said Dr. Porter.
The obvious concern when working with very young children is they can't tell you how they feel or where it hurts, forcing doctors to depend on behavior and body language.
"When things hurt, whether it is a bone tumor or brain tumor, when they begin to behave in a way that isn't that of a happy child, then you know something is… I have to be a detective and I have to figure out where the problems are," said Dr. Porter.
With advancement in diagnostic testing and medical treatments, more lives are being saved.