About Childhood Cancer

In Canada, 1700 children and youths between the ages of birth and 19 years of age are diagnosed with cancer each year. Although great strides in treatment and care have been made, childhood cancer is still the leading disease-related cause of death for Canadian children. While over 75% of children survive cancer, more than 50% of survivors of childhood cancer face late effects of their disease and treatment, including neurocognitive impairments, sterility and secondary cancers. Childhood cancer has a devastating effect on parents, siblings, extended family, friends and communities everywhere.

The following childhood cancer facts have been compiled from various sources, including Kids Cancer Care, Alberta, and Camp Trillium Childhood Cancer Centre.

  • Cancers in children differ from those in adults because childhood cancers are often genetic, whereas adult cancers are often related to lifestyle;
  • Childhood cancers include:
    • Leukemia’s (cancers of the blood-producing tissues);
    • Lymphomas (cancers of the lymphatic system);
    • Brain tumors;
    • Solid tumors (i.e. bone cancers);
    • Brain tumors account for a large proportion of childhood cancers;
    • Solid tumors, affecting body parts such as arms or legs, constitute the rest of childhood cancers;
  • Cancer is the number one disease killing children from age six months through to young adulthood;
  • Every year approximately 230 Canadian children die from the disease;
  • Advances in cancer research have significantly increased the odds of survival;
  • A shift toward multidisciplinary care has improved outcomes and decreased morbidity rates;
  • Mortality rates for childhood cancer have declined by more than 50 per cent since the 1950s;
  • Today, 80 per cent of young people with acute lymphoblastic leukemia are alive five years after diagnosis;
  • Leukemia accounts for 26% of new childhood cancer cases and 30% of deaths
  • Leukemia remains the most common childhood cancer;
  • Treating a child with cancer demands a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week commitment of specialized care;
  • Childhood cancers are generally more successfully treated than cancers in adults because the cancers grow more quickly and are, therefore, more susceptible to chemotherapy and radiation;
  • Childhood cancer treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or bone marrow transplants;
  • Cancer treatments are long and often difficult to persevere but it is the immune system suppression and the resulting inability to go out into public that is for challenging for kids;
  • The short term effects of cancer and its treatments may include a compromised immune system, hair loss, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, mood problems and poor self image (especially in teens);
  • Cancer treatments often cause lifelong disabilities such as motor and cognitive impairments, loss of limbs, as well as heart, vision and hearing impairments;
  • Treatments can last from six months to three years or longer; relapses are common.

Some of our partners have compiled additional data that aids researchers in their quest for cures and treatments for childhood cancers:

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