The most common cancer in children is cancer of the blood, followed by cancers of the brain, lymph glands, nerve cells, bone and soft tissue tumours. The lung, bowel, breast, pancreas and prostate are rarely affected. For a detailed listing of the most common childhood cancers, symptoms and treatments, click here.
To many, the treatment is worse than the disease, involving chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, or a combination of all three. Treatment, which can also involve bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant, is long and hard.
Having a child with cancer is hard on the whole family. A child does not understand why he or she is suffering, siblings feel hurt and left out, and parents are torn between the emotional extremes of love and fear. Every member of the family is angry, worried and depressed.
In Hong Kong, some 170 children contract the disease each year – about one child in every 10,000. However, two out of three childhood cancer patients nowadays outlive their doctors. For current statistics in Hong Kong, please see the table below.
Cancer in children is different from cancer in adults, and quite often the chances of winning the battle are also much better. Since the 1970’s, when most children diagnosed with cancer had little hope of survival, cure rates have increased significantly. And as a consequence, the number of survivors of childhood cancer has grown dramatically.
While the treatment of childhood cancer is one of medicine’s great success stories, not widely recognized are the unintended consequences of this success. Alongside these increased survival rates have come “late effects,” which may impair survivors’ health and affect their quality of life. These include complications, disabilities, or adverse outcomes that are the result of the disease, the treatment, or both, and are dependent on many factors, such as age at diagnosis and treatment, exposure to chemotherapy and radiation used during treatment (doses and parts of body exposed), and the severity of initial disease.
In the past, as many as two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors were likely to experience at least one late effect, with perhaps one-fourth of survivors experiencing a late effect that is severe or life threatening. The most common late effects of childhood cancer are neurocognitive and psychological, cardiopulmonary, endocrine (e.g., those affecting growth and fertility), musculoskeletal, and second cancers. In recent years, and with less radiation therapy included in the treatment, these late effects are less commonly seen.
While some late effects are identified during childhood or adolescent years and resolve without consequence, others may persist or develop in adulthood to become chronic problems, or influence the progression of other diseases associated with aging. Understanding late effects is further complicated by the constant evolution of treatments, and patients representing different treatment eras may experience unique sets of late effects.
No. of new cases (2015): 169
No. of death cases (2015): 43
Factors affecting the cure rate of childhood cancer:
> The type of cancer
> The stage of cancer
> Location of cancer
> Response to the treatment
Common cancers in children (2015):
|Distribution by types of cancer||No. of Cases||Percentage|
|2. Brain Tumour||27||16|
|4. Soft Tissue Sarcoma||13||8|
|7. Bone Tumour||7||4|
|8. Kidney Tumour||6||4|
|9. Germ Cell Tumour
|10. Liver Tumour||4||2|
Source: Hong Kong Paediatric Haematology and Oncology Study Group
Remarks: The above data was collected from the five major public hospitals that treat childhood cancer