Childhood and Adolescence Cancer

In many countries, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children over 1 year of age, exceeded only by accidents.

Fortunately, in recent years a great progress has been made in the treatment of childhood cancer. For example, acute leukemia that 30 years ago was considered inevitably fatal, at present, is the most frequent childhood cancer with a five-year survival exceeding 70%. Significantly, most patients can be cured.

Also, similar advances has been made in treatment of solid tumors; since, methods with radioation therapy, surgery and chemotherapy have been used in combination, long-term survival of childhood cancer has significantly increased.

Kids are different than adults and it is important, in general, to take action to any different sign or symptoms noted. In summary, while pediatric cancer can not be preventable, the goal of early detection can be achieved by health providers who do a comprehensive medical history, good medical exam, and believe in the parents.

Key facts
  • Cancer is a leading cause of death for children and adolescents around the world and approximately 300,000 children aged 0 to 19 years old are diagnosed with cancer each year. [1]
  • The most common categories of childhood cancers include leukemias, brain cancers, lymphomas and solid tumours, such as neuroblastoma and Wilms tumour. [1-2]
  • In high-income countries more than 80% of children with cancer are cured, but in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) only about 20% are cured. [2-3]
  • Childhood cancer generally cannot be prevented or screened.
  • Improving outcomes for children with cancer requires early and accurate diagnosis followed by effective treatment.
  • Most childhood cancers can be cured with generic medicines and other forms of treatments including surgery and radiotherapy. Treatment of childhood cancer can be cost-effective in all income settings. [2]
  • Avoidable deaths from childhood cancers in LMICs result from lack of diagnosis, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, obstacles to accessing care, abandonment of treatment, death from toxicity, and higher rates of relapse.
  • Childhood cancer data systems are needed to drive continuous improvements in the quality of care, and to drive policy decisions.
What PAHO does

Childhood Cancer Working Group

PAHO, together with UICC, governments, and academia convene to discuss strategies to reduce inequities and increase access to childhood cancer care in Latin America and the Caribbean. Improving access to care for children with cancer and reducing the inequities associated with outcomes for children with cancer in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is the main goal of PAHO's Childhood Cancer Working Group. The group, formed in 2017 on the heals of a policy dialogue by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), gathered the leading pediatric oncologists from public health institutions in LAC, as well as representatives from Canada's Hospital for Sick Children, the University of Chile, the University of West Indies and UICC.