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Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Compassionate care for children who receive a blood/cancer diagnosis

Specialized Cancer Care

Built on a commitment of compassionate care and support, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida offers specialized care for children with cancer and blood disorders. We help families right here in our area maintain as much of their normal daily lives as possible while a child undergoes treatment.

The State of Florida Department of Children’s Medical Services designated our Hematology/Oncology program as one of just nine centers in the state for infants and children diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders.

We ensure that patients have access to advanced therapies and the collective expertise of world-renowned specialists. 

Each year, roughly 35 children at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida are diagnosed with cancer for the first time. Dr. Kelly Sawczyn, a pediatric oncologist with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, says lymphoma is one of the most common childhood cancers. “Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph node.” It can develop anywhere in the body. It’s an aggressive cancer for children, but doctors say that’s actually a good thing. “When I say aggressive, I mean that they grow quickly but they are also treatable. So these are not things that the symptoms are lasting a year, these are things that a month ago it started and now it’s really getting worse,” said Dr. Sawczyn. Aggressive cancers receive aggressive treatments, and because lymphoma grows quickly, it’s usually noticed quickly and treated quickly. Studies show 80 percent of children walk away as success stories. “Fortunately, with lymphoma for the most part it doesn’t matter if you’re diagnosed today, two weeks from now, or a month from now, you’re likelihood of being cured is going to be the same,” said Dr. Sawczyn. Depending on the type of lymphoma children are usually treated with chemotherapy or radiation. The treatment can last three months or as long as two years. “It depends on the type, of which there are several, but the bottom line is that of those several types that we treat they are almost all curable. We have an excellent success rate with all cancers so 80 percent of all children diagnosed with cancer are going to be cured, and when we say cured we don’t mean just five years, we mean a lifetime,” said Dr. Sawczyn. While the cause of childhood cancers are unclear, doctors say they are optimistic that the treatments are helping children beat cancer.

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Conditions We Treat

  • Cancer
  • Acute leukemia
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia
  • Solid tumors (Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma)
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Sarcomas
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Hepatoblastoma
  • Kidney tumors
  • Brain tumors
  • Langerhans cell histiocytosis
  • Blood and bleeding disorders
  • Sickle cell hemoglobinopathies
  • Anemia
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Leukopenia/neutropenia
  • Other more rare coagulation disorders
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Thrombophilia evaluations (treatment of VTE)

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Other Services for Children

  • Biological therapy for inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatologic conditions
  • Immune globulin infusions for immune deficiencies and neurologic conditions
  • Transfusion of blood products for blood disorders
  • Infusion chemotherapy for cancer patients
  • Diagnostic and therapeutic lumbar punctures with sedation
  • Gene therapy
  • Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program

Each year an estimated 70,000 adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with cancer. “It is really, really important to serve these patients because it affects their survival,” said Dr. April Depombo, a pediatrician hematology-oncology physician with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. The startling statistics are why Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida recently joined an initiative to help patients diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 15 and 29. “The AYA is the adolescent young adult program. It’s an initiative that was started many years ago. We are the only AYA program in the area, and we are the only one in a children’s hospital in Southwest Florida entirely,” explained Dr. Depombo. Studies show AYA patients are better served in pediatric settings. “It’s this in-between age group that kind of falls through the cracks usually, because they are not young children and they are not older adults, and they also have some very special needs,” she said. The AYA program caters to the patient’s cancer care, enrolls them in clinical trials, provides them with psychosocial support, and offers options to preserve their fertility. “We talk about sperm banking; we talk about egg and ovarian tissue cryopreservation. The procedures that they would go through and what it looks like to have their fertility preserved,” Dr. Depombo said. Patients who qualify for clinical trials can participate through Golisano Children’s Hospital. “Enrolling patients on clinical trials is really, really important. Studies have shown, patients 15 to 19 there’s only about 10 percent enrollment rate and ages 20 to 39 there’s only about one percent of patients enroll,” she said. The program helps patients adjust to life with cancer treatment. “This is a really big change going through a cancer diagnosis, and these patients are kind of in that in-between period. They are trying to go to school, maybe they have young families, maybe they just started their first job, maybe they’re in college, so this is a really large change,” Dr. Depombo said.

Related Programs

Chrissy Brown Inpatient Hematology/Oncology Unit

A special place for children and families coping with extended hospital stays, this unit combines lifesaving care and many comforts of home so children and families can focus on treatment and recovery.

Barbara’s Friends Hematology/Oncology Outpatient Center

For children who are going through treatment, but do not need to be hospitalized, Barbara’s Friends Outpatient Center provides the therapy they need in a kid-friendly environment.

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