Understanding The Unique Challenges And Promising Advances In Pediatric Cancer Care : Cancer is a daunting disease that affects half of the world regardless of age. Although, all types of cancers are intimidating the one affecting children poses different challenges and risks and it requires special attention. With the growing advancement in treating pediatric cancers, understanding the unique challenges and promising advances is crucial to improving the outcomes for these young patients. Dr. Pavithran K, Professor & HoD of Medical Oncology and Haematology, Amrita Hospital, Kochidiscusses the multifaceted nature of childhood cancer and factors affecting the treatment.
“Infections like Epstein-Barr virus and human papillomavirus can trigger cancer, making HPV vaccination vital for childhood cancer survivors to reduce HPV-related subsequent cancers. Environmental factors, including air pollution, chemical exposure, and radiation, have been studied but remain inconclusive in their connection to childhood cancer. Lifestyle choices, such as obesity and unhealthy diets, can increase cancer risk in later years, although in adults, the majority of cancers are linked to environmental, occupational, and lifestyle factors,” said Dr Pavithran. He further added that children typically respond better to chemotherapy than adults, with cure rates exceeding 80%, compared to less than 60% in adults. They undergo more aggressive treatment, with radiation avoided in children under 3 years to prevent brain development issues. Long-term monitoring is essential for early detection and prevention of delayed side effects, such as those affecting the heart, endocrinopathy, infertility, and second malignancies.
Notably, 80% of children are cured in high-income countries, while cure rates in low-middle-income countries are limited to 30 40%. Addressing this disparity is a critical challenge in the fight against childhood cancer.
What Are The Unique Challenges Of Pediatric Cancer?
- Childhood cancers are sometimes seen as uncommon, hence the funding for their study and treatment is generally lower than that for adult cancers. Historically, this has hindered the advancement of tailored treatments for pediatric cancers.
- Children’s bodies are still developing, therefore they are more vulnerable to the long-term negative effects of radiation and chemotherapy. The difficulty is in developing cancer medicines that minimize damage to healthy tissues while efficiently combating the disease.
- Certain juvenile tumors have nebulous signs or are misdiagnosed as typical pediatric ailments. This may result in a delayed diagnosis, which would progress the disease and make treatment more challenging.
- A kid’s diagnosis of pediatric cancer has a significant effect on the child and family. Managing the psychological and emotional costs is a constant struggle.
Some Advances In Treating Pediatric Cancers
- Targeted medicines are a result of developments in genomics and molecular profiling. By targeting cancer cells exclusively and preserving healthy cells, these therapies lessen the harmful side effects of conventional chemotherapy.
- Pediatric cancers have shown considerable potential for immunotherapy. It uses the body’s immune system to combat cancer, and certain immunotherapies have helped children with diseases that were thought to be incurable make amazing recoveries.
- In pediatric oncology, the idea of precision medicine is becoming more popular. By customizing the therapy to each child’s own genetic and molecular composition, this method guarantees a more efficient and customized approach.
- Increased awareness and improvements in diagnostic procedures have enhanced early detection. Better results depend on early detection, and these advancements are shortening the interval between the onset of symptoms and the start of therapy.
- Today’s pediatric cancer care is centered on the child’s overall health. Programs for supportive care give patients and their families the tools and counseling they need to meet their emotional and psychological requirements.
- The long-term care of children who have survived cancer is becoming more important than just treating the disease. Managing the aftereffects of cancer therapy and improving survivors’ quality of life are the goals of survivorship programs.