Doctor and Patient

Treatment

The survivorship rate has risen steadily since the 1970s, when most patients died, to roughly 84.5% cured today. This is a childhood cancer success story, largely because of improvements in treatment. But it comes at great cost, relying on chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation as the foundation of today’s treatment regimen. Children’s bodies still developing, and abrasive approaches have lasting impact on the brain, heart, thyroid, circulatory system, endocrine system, and hormones. Further, the process of childhood cancer treatment brings a heavy burden on delicate systems. CAT scans, abrasive antibiotics and antifungal agents, and even medications such as Benadryl can impact normal development, increasing challenges for survivors. Treatment evaluations need to consider the entire treatment experience, including the toll that trauma takes on the patient, and the entire family. Palliative care, providing relief from the symptoms and stress of illness to improve quality of life, needs to be better incorporated in all aspects of treatment.