Fortunately, cancer in children and adolescents is rare, although the overall incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing since 1975. Children and adolescents with cancer should be referred to medical centers that have a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists with experience treating the cancers that occur during childhood and adolescence. This multidisciplinary team approach incorporates the skills of the primary care physician, pediatric surgical subspecialists, radiation oncologists, pediatric medical oncologists/hematologists, rehabilitation specialists, pediatric nurse specialists, social workers, and others in order to ensure that children receive treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation that will achieve optimal survival and quality of life. (Refer to the PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care summaries for specific information about supportive care for children and adolescents with cancer.)
Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer have been outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics. At these pediatric cancer centers, clinical trials are available for most of the types of cancer that occur in children and adolescents, and the opportunity to participate in these trials is offered to most patients/families. Clinical trials for children and adolescents with cancer are generally designed to compare potentially better therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. Most of the progress made in identifying curative therapies for childhood cancers has been achieved through clinical trials. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.
Avoiding cancer risk factors may help prevent certain cancers. Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.
The following are risk factors for oral cancer:
Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer. Between 1975 and 2006, childhood cancer mortality has decreased by more than 50%. Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close follow-up since cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for specific information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors.)
Wilms tumor is a curable disease in the majority of affected children. Approximately 500 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. Since the 1980s, the 5-year survival rate for Wilms tumor has been consistently above 90%. This favorable outcome occurred despite reductions in the length of therapy, dose of radiation, extent of fields irradiated, and the percentage of patients receiving radiation therapy. The prognosis for patients with Wilms tumor is related not only to the stage of disease at diagnosis, the histopathologic features of the tumor, patient age, and tumor size, but also to the team approach provided to each patient by the pediatric surgeon, radiation oncologist, and pediatric oncologist (COG-AREN9404).[4,5,6,7] Patients who develop Wilms tumor in their second decade of life have a poorer survival (5-year survival, 63%) than younger patients with Wilms tumor.