4 times as many children survive cancer now than 50 years ago: Study
A new study shows that medical advancements over the past five decades have raised the survival rate among cancer children in North America by four times.
“Fifty years ago, only one in five’children would survive cancer, and today over 80 percent are alive five years after diagnosis,” said lead author of the study Gregory Armstrong, who is a pediatric oncologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The study was conducted on more than 34,000 children diagnosed with cancer between 1970 and 1999 at 31 US and Canadian hospitals. Its findings were released at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which is scheduled for May 29 to June 2, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois, the US.
“Medical advancements have not only helped more children survive their primary cancer, but have also extended their overall lifespan by reducing the overall toxicity of [cancer] treatment,” said Armstrong.
The researcher, however, pointed out that the treatment of cancer is not an easy task and there are still risks and health complications other than the primary cancer. However, a gradual refinement of treatment, including lower intensity treatment for many pediatric cancers, had positively affected the survival rate of child cancer patients.
“Child cancer survivors still face an increased risk of heart disease and a second cancer in the future, but improvements have been made by offering more refined and less harsh treatments than in the past,” he said.
The study credited supportive care for cancer children as another reason for the added survival rate.
“While the modernization of cancer therapy has probably made the most significant difference, improvements in supportive care for survivors, and screening, detection, and treatment… have played an important role in extending their lifespan as well,” said Armstrong.