There are many types of childhood cancer with different symptoms and treatments. Childhood cancer survival rates in the United States have increased from less than 20 percent in the 1960s to almost 80 percent today. Parents are the best advocates for their children so being informed will help guide a family to make the best decisions for the child battling cancer.
Leukemias are the most common childhood cancers. They account for about 33% of all childhood cancers. Leukemia affects two types of white blood cells which are responsible for protecting the body from disease: lymphocytes and granulocytes. Leukemias that affect lymphocytes are known as “lymphocytic” or “lymphoblastic,” and those that affect granulocytes are called “myeloid” or “myelogenous” leukemias.
Leukemia is also classified as either acute or chronic. In acute leukemia, white blood cells are released from the bone marrow into the bloodstream before they mature, where they reproduce rapidly. In chronic leukemias, the blood cells are a bit more mature and multiply at a much slower rate.
Some childhood cancers, such as neuroblastoma or Wilms tumor, start in other organs and can spread to bone marrow, but these cancers are not leukemia.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the most common leukemia seen in children, accounting for 75% of all pediatric cases. ALL occurs in two distinct age groups: infants under three years of age, and young teenagers.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) strikes both children and adults. About 20% of childhood leukemia cases are AML.
Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML) is a rare disease that mostly strikes children under four years of age. About 15% of JMML cases occur in children with neurofibromatosis type 1, a genetic disorder that is also treated at the Children’s Cancer Hospital.
In addition, new types of treatments are often being tested in clinical trials and can be found on the National Cancer Institute Website.
In childhood ALL, risk groups are used instead of stages.
Because ALL is a disease of the blood cells, it has already spread throughout the body at diagnosis. There is no staging system for ALL. Risk groups are used to plan treatment.
Risk groups are described as:
Other factors that affect the risk group include the following:
It is important to know the risk group in order to plan treatment. Children with high risk ALL usually receive more aggressive treatment than children with standard risk ALL. There is no standard staging system for childhood AML, childhood chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), transient myeloproliferative disorder (TMD), or myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).
Childhood AML is described as newly diagnosed, in remission, or recurrent.
MD Anderson Childhood Cancer Types. Houston, TX: MD Anderson. Retrieved August 15, 2011 from http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/
National Institute of Health. Types of Cancers 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2009. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/CAFF2009PWSecured.pdf.
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