BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which brings attention to the 16,000 kids under 21 years old who get a devastating diagnosis every year in the U.S.
Childhood cancer is rare but when a child gets that diagnosis, it can send families into a period of confusion.
Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman is one of the treatment centers for childhood cancer patients across northeast Ohio. Every year, Akron Children’s sees around 100 new cases in this region.
The most common type of cancer affecting kids is leukemia, followed by brain tumors, then lymphomas.
The most diagnosed age groups are preschoolers and teenagers.
Doctors at Akron Children’s said diagnosis, treatment and recovery are different for every patient. There is no one fit mold.
“When we look at the Mahoning Valley and the cases that come from that region, they make up about 20% to 25% of our total case number each year,” Dr. Jeffrey Hord said. “I’ve looked back the last 10 years and that has stayed consistent. When you look at the distribution of those types of cancer, it mimics what you see across the country.”
Over the past few decades, the treatments and survival rates for childhood cancer have increased drastically.
Chemotherapy is still the number-one treatment for childhood cancer patients. Almost every kid will go through some type of chemo treatment if they’re diagnosed.
Akron Children’s is also using immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to fight off certain types of cancer. This treatment has fewer side effects than the traditional chemo treatment and it’s less toxic to the body.
In the early 1960s and ’70s, the overall survival rate of childhood cancer was around 15%. Now with current treatments, the survival rate is between 85% and 90% as long-term survivors.
The treatment team at Akron Children’s is not only there to help kids beat cancer, but for moral support, too.
“We have about 125 people at Akron Children’s Hospital who are focused primarily on taking care of kids with cancer and chronic blood disorders. We see about 90 to 100 new cases per year in total through the Akron Children’s system, but we have more staff than cases because it does require a lot of intensive support,” Hord said.
The pandemic has also affected kids going through treatment. Almost every treatment center has had to cancel fun things that take treatment off of patients’ minds, like superhero visits and summer parties.
However, the hospital is still doing things like goodie bags and t-shirt giveaways to lift their spirits.