New research, believed to be the first of its kind to be produced anywhere in the world, shows how many children in the UK aged 0-14 are currently living with a diagnosis of cancer.
At present, nearly 10,000 children in the UK are living with cancer, and around 20% more boys than girls are affected, according to the research, which has been published by Macmillan Cancer Support and the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN).
The figures also show that 47% of all those aged under 14 living with a cancer diagnosis were diagnosed at least five years ago. In addition, it finds that the most commonly-diagnosed form of the disease is leukaemia, accounting for almost a third of all new cases of cancer each year.
Many children who survive cancer go on to develop an increased risk of other health conditions, which can include problems with growth and development, heart and lung conditions and, for some, an increased risk of developing second cancers, the research shows.
It also finds that children who survive cancer experience increased anxiety after their treatment, with almost one in five (18%) of parents reporting that their child had lost confidence or was anxious about returning to school because of their cancer.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time such data has been available in the world, and it certainly quantifies the burden children with cancer and their families have to bear,” comments Dr Michael Peake, clinical lead at the NCIN, which became part of Public Health England in April this year.
The research will also help support the NHS as it plans how to deliver the optimum level of expert care for such children as they grow up, Dr Peake added.
Ciaran Devine, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, also pointed to the unique nature of the research and called for more to be done to support the thousands of children with cancer in the UK. “While many children will go on to survive their diagnosis, we know the impact of cancer does not stop when the treatment ends,” he said.
“Far too often they end up lost in the healthcare system and are not receiving appropriate and timely follow-up care. Adult specialists and GPs need to know how to management side effects and lifestyle changes that can affect those treated as children,” said Mr Devane.