Child cancer results improving. In a “cradle to grave” Health Service we are not doing badly at cradles.. but we are doing badly as patients approach their grave. Rosemary Bennett in The times 21st Jan reports: Cuts to elderly aid ‘fuelling NHS crisis’ . Dead patients don’t vote…
The number of children and young people dying from cancer in Scotland has dropped by almost 60 per cent in the past four decades, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK.
The charity has called for the public to keep donating to help find new treatments because progress made in tackling cancer had led to this “unprecedented” drop.
Deaths among under-24s have fallen from about 130 each year in the mid-1970s to about 45 today. The steepest decline was in leukaemia where the average number of deaths dropped in the past 10 years, from 18 each year to ten.
The charity released the figures as it launched Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens, a fund-raising campaign which aims to accelerate research into kinder treatments and cures for children, teenagers and young adults with cancer.
Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for Scotland, said: “It’s encouraging to see the death toll for children’s cancers falling steadily, but we must make faster progress to save more lives….
Childhood cancer deaths have dropped by more than half in recent decades.
Huge strides and modern drugs mean that the number of people under 24 dying of cancer each year has fallen from 1,300 in the 1970s to 550 now, according to Cancer Research UK.
The biggest reduction has been in deaths from leukaemia. The disease, which once killed nine out of ten sufferers, now has a 90 per cent survival rate, thanks to a new generation of targeted drugs such as Glivec.
However, campaigners warned that there had been very little progress in other types of cancers, with a big research gap opening up between common and rarer cancers.
Pam Kearns, director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit in Birmingham, said: “These figures are testament to the real progress we’re making in treating children and young people with cancer. But hundreds of young people are dying from cancer each year in the UK, which means there’s still much more we need to do.”
Cancer is the most deadly illness in childhood, but about three quarters of patients now survive. In the mid-1970s, 57 in every million children under 14 died of cancer; this has fallen to 23 in a million. Children still face the trauma of gruelling treatment and long-term side-effects such as infertility and disability. Research published last summer found that almost all childhood cancer survivors will have at least one chronic health condition by the age of 45.
Professor Kearns added: “Every day I see the extreme bravery of children and young people going through difficult treatments. Whilst many go on to live full lives, they may have to deal with the side-effects of treatment for years to come. So it is vital that we continue to increase funding for research into kinder and better treatments.”
Simon Fuller, director at the Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “It’s heartening to see significant improvements in survival. However, these figures still show teenagers and young adults continuing to have higher cancer mortality rates than children. For teenagers and young adults, survival varies by cancer type, and treatments for some of their common cancers have barely changed in 30 years. Much more research is urgently needed to improve treatments.”
Fiona Barnett, of Wimbledon, southwest London, whose son Rufus was diagnosed with leukaemia aged six, said: “When they told me it was leukaemia my first question was, ‘is he going to die?’. Treatment started immediately and over that first year Rufus had to endure seemingly non-stop lumbar punctures, injections and general anaesthetics, not to mention infections, horrible medicines and hideous side-effects.
“It felt like it would never end, but one year after diagnosis we were so relieved to hear that Rufus was responding well, which indicated that he had a very good chance of complete recovery.”…