Childhood cancer survival figures brings hope for patients and their families

Wednesday 17 October, 2012

But 150 Victorian children diagnosed with cancer each year

Survival for Victorian children diagnosed with cancer is at an all-time high, with a report released by Cancer Council Victoria today showing overall five-year cancer survival in children under the age of 15 years has increased from 68% in 1982 to 82% in 2010.

However, there is still much work to be done, with Childhood Cancer 2010, revealing that although cancer is rare in Victorian children, it is the second highest cause of death after accidents and the most common cause of death from disease in this age group.

The report also reveals that incidence rates have been increasing at 0.5% year*, which is similar to the increases observed in other countries and generally considered to result from improved detection and reporting.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO, Todd Harper, said the improvement in survival highlights the improvements made in treatment over the last 30 years.

"The increase in survival demonstrates we are getting better at treating childhood cancers, and provides hope for the more than 150 Victorian children and their families who are diagnosed with cancer each year," Mr Harper said.

"The impact of improvements in treatment is particularly dramatic if we look at the trends in survival for leukaemia, which had survival of less than 40% in the 1970s and is now over 90%, while lymphoma survival has increased from 58% to more than 90% over the same period."

Overall cancer mortality rates have decreased by 2.3% per year since 1982.

"Many of these improvements are attributable to the advent of chemotherapy in the 1970s, while in recent years survival continues to improve due to ongoing developments in use of targeted treatment protocols and new radiotherapy techniques."

Mr Harper acknowledged the vital role the Paediatric Integrated Cancer Service (PICS) has played in improving childhood cancer outcomes.

The PICS is a partnership between Royal Children's Hospital, Southern Health and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre that was established in 2004 to provide the best care, in the best facility, as close to home as possible.

Incidence rates are assessed as cancer diagnoses per 100,000 children and have been reported annually in Victoria since 1982.

"The PICS framework ensure patients with similar cancer diagnoses are treated and monitored according to detailed paediatric treatment guidelines," said Mr Harper.

"This report shows that over 95% of the 159 children diagnosed with cancer in 2010 were diagnosed at one of the specialist paediatric oncology centres and less than 5% of Victorian children are treated wholly at hospitals outside the PICS."

With more children being diagnosed and more people surviving cancer, the demand for information and support services is also increasing and Cancer Council Victoria is working closely with the PICS to ensure the best possible cancer support is available to children with cancer and their families.

Mr Harper encouraged anyone (including family and friends) requiring support or information about any type of cancer to contact the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 and speak to one of our experienced cancer nurses.