Every year, roughly 10,000 children are diagnosed with cancer. Dr. Constantine Mantz, a radiation oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Health, says huge advancements in cancer treatments are saving more lives. “In childhood the three most common types of cancer are leukemia, tumors of the brain or central nervous system, and another type of nervous system cancer called neuroblastoma.”
While childhood cancers are just as common as they have been in previous decades, doctors say the improved treatment is saving more lives. “In all of cancer medicine where we’ve seen the greatest strides made in improving opportunity for a cure has been in kids. When we look back over the last 30 or 40 years the mortality rates, death rates, from pediatric cancers have just plummeted by 70 percent,” said Dr. Mantz.
That’s because doctors have shifted their efforts from just curing the cancer, to now curing the cancer and preserving the child’s quality of life. “There’s a tremendous amount of effort and research now being devoted to how we optimize the rest of the patient’s life after we cure that kid’s case,” said Dr. Mantz.
Because most childhood cancers are known to spread throughout the body, doctors find chemotherapy to be the most effective treatment. But even that has become more customized, and the level of toxicity is being scaled back. “What’s happening more and more is the drugs are much more tailored towards the specific genetic changes that we see in cancer cells that will serve as targets for these agents so the side effects go down,” said Dr. Mantz.
Today more than 400,000 people are childhood survivors of cancer. “It attests greatly to the success that cancer medicine has been able to achieve for its patients,” said Dr. Mantz.
An achievement doctors hope will only improve as better treatments become available for all cancer patients.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.