By Abigail Mortimore | UCSF.edu | September 28, 2012
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month, encouraging awareness and affirmation to the commitment of fighting pediatric cancer.
The UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital not only is one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals, but it’s also a leader in the treatment of cancer and blood diseases. UCSF recognizes that pediatric cancer differs from adult cancer in the way it emerges and develops and ensures the cancer programs are designed specifically for its youngest patients.
About 12,060 children under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Thanks to recent treatment advances, more than 80 percent of children with cancer now survive five years or more. While survival rates vary depending on the type of cancer and other factors, this is a huge increase since the mid-1970s when the five-year survival rate was less than 60 percent.
With cancer treatment programs becoming more comprehensive, there now are more resources to help support the overall treatment process for patients. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital has created special programs to supplement the medical services pediatric cancer patients receive.
Survivors of Childhood Cancer
Given the growing population of pediatric cancer survivors, the UCSF Survivors of Childhood Cancer Program is dedicated to helping them maintain optimal physical and emotional health for the rest of their lives.
“It is estimated that one in 500 young adults in the United States is a survivor of pediatric cancer,” said Robert Goldsby, MD, a UCSF pediatric oncologist and medical director of the Survivors of Childhood Cancer Program. “It is essential that we provide appropriate and comprehensive care addressing long-term consequences of therapy for cancer survivors.”
The Survivors Clinic consults patients on the impact of their cancer treatments in their childhood and their subsequent long-term health care needs in adulthood. Pediatric cancer survivors may face a host of issues including fertility problems, problems accessing health care and obtaining insurance, secondary cancers, psychological and emotional problems, treatment-related organ dysfunction, just to name a few.
An example of the UCSF Survivors Clinic health passport provided to pediatric cancer survivor patients. The passport serves as handy reference of personalized medical history.
Patients make their initial visit to the Survivors Clinic after being at least two years off therapy and then every five years subsequently. More than 400 visits have been held in the clinic.