Treatment options for cancer in children have advanced in recent years. Research and the search for a cure for cancer is still happening across the world, but no one cure has been found. Cancer in children are less common than in adults and this means that studies and research are limited when it comes to cancer in children. Research based on adult cancer can only help to a certain extent as cancer in children and adults are two different things with different causes.
Treatments are generally combined to create better odds for positive results. Most of the treatments of cancer have serious side effects and can cause other health problems in future. Treatment options and combinations should be considered carefully and parents should ensure that they understand what the treatments will involve.
The main treatments used for cancer in children are:
Surgery is always risky, but when it comes to cancers that involve tumors, this is often the best options. Doctors do surgery to cut out the cancerous tumor and surrounding cells. They usually try to remove as much of the cell mass and the surrounding tissue to reduce the chances of it coming back. Surgery is sometimes not an option because of where the tumor is located and then doctors must try other options. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also often combined with surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells surrounding the tumor area.
Chemotherapy is one of the most used treatments for cancer patients. It involves administering a combination of very strong drugs. These may be administered one by one or several at once. It is a controversial treatment that many people and doctors believe actually cause more harm than good. Because of this, make sure that you understand what chemotherapy is and ask your doctor to explain the process and the possible risks and side effects before allowing this therapy for your child. Chemotherapy has proven successful in many cases and less so in others. Research is still being done on better treatments.
Radiation therapy involves ‘zapping’ cancer cells or tumors with high-energy particles to destroy them. Radiation also has many different potential side effects just like chemotherapy. Radiation is often combined with other treatment options like surgery or chemotherapy. One of the main risks of this therapy is destroying healthy cells surrounding the bad cells.
This is one of the newer treatments that didn’t exist a few decades ago. It is also called biological therapy and involves the use of materials that are created by the patient’s body or in a lab. These materials are used to help the body heal its immune system or target specific areas. Examples of this therapy include interferons and cancer vaccines.
Transplants of bone marrow, cord blood, and stem cells are also used as treatment options. Most people know about bone marrow transplants for leukemia. However, thanks to medical research and advances in recent years, doctors can now also transplant stem cells. Stem cells are specialized cells that are placed in the body with the purpose to replace the bad cells and make it possible for good cells to grow again.
Cancer treatments all carry risks, but they also have the potential of having great results for your child. Approximately 60% of children with cancer go into remission and live for five years or longer than expected. Other programs like art therapy are also used to support these treatments.