The diagnosis of childhood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndromes, tumors, and related cancers can be devastating to the entire family. Life changes for the child and everyone around them. It is an emotional roller coaster with many practical considerations as well. Meanwhile, parents struggle to seek effective treatments with the least possible impact on the child they love.
The common types of childhood cancers are different than the cancers most often found in adults. According to the American Cancer Society, childhood cancers are not strongly linked to lifestyle or environmental risk factors. They are more typically caused by changes in cells that take place much earlier in life.
Currently, there is a range of effective treatment options. Which one is used may depend on the age of the child, the stage and type of cancer, the treatment facility, and the desire to minimize side effects. In addition to being used for diagnosis in some cases, surgery is often involved in treatment.
Chemotherapy uses medicines to treat the cancer, whereas radiation therapy uses high-energy particles to destroy the cancerous cells. Often the treatment plan includes a combination of treatments.
Using Cord Blood
Umbilical cord blood has been successfully used to treat diseases since 1988 and is now routine for many types of cancer. Transplanted stem cells from cord blood can restore the bone marrow’s ability to make healthy blood cells. Not only are cord blood transplants more successful than ever, there is growing evidence that they may be preferred over bone marrow transplants.
There are also some promising clinical trials currently in progress for the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells in the treatment of other childhood diseases. Hematopoietic stem cells are the building blocks of the body’s blood and immune system, and umbilical cord blood is a rich source of these cells. Another benefit is that previously stored cord blood is easily and immediately available for patients who need it.