The most common types of cancer in children are leukemias, lymphomas, brain tumors and other solid tumors, rather than common adult cancers of the lung, breast, prostate and colon. Treatment for cancer has improved in recent years due in large part to cooperative groups working together to share information and ideas for making treatments more effective and less toxic. Additionally, better imaging techniques using CT, MRI and PET scans enable more precise staging and earlier detection of recurrence. New cancer drugs are being developed every day that target cancer cells and spare normal tissue, yielding better success rates. Better antibiotics to fight risky infections and improve prevention in individuals with decreased immunity due to chemotherapy, and safe, available blood for transfusions are also helping to improve cancer care.
The flip side of improved care is the challenge of telling parents their child has cancer. "It's always difficult to tell because it's devastating to the parents, whether the cancer is treatable or not," Dr. Susan Spiller, Hematology/Oncolory specialist at Children's Hospital, said. "I work hard to provide parents with really good information so they understand their child's diagnosis and know what to worry about as well as what they don't have to worry about."
The pediatric hematology/oncology group at Children's Hospital is a member of the Children's Oncology Group (COG). This organization of more than 200 member institutions worldwide conducts clinical trials and performs research to identify cancer causes and pioneer treatments and cures. Because of this affiliation, Children's is able to offer the same treatment regimens as other Children's Oncology Group institutions for most types of childhood cancer. Among the more well-known of the COG member institutions are Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City; Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis; and Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville.
Hematology/Oncology Patients and Parents is an official support group of Children's Hospital that provides support for families dealing with a child with cancer.