Over the past half century, survival rates for children with cancer have risen dramatically. More than 80 percent of these patients will survive at least five years beyond their diagnosis—whereas in 1975, the rate was around 58 percent. This increase is the result of major advances in cancer treatments, including pediatric cancer surgery.
In both children and adults, cancer begins when abnormal cells in the body start to grow uncontrollably. Certain types of cancer are more likely to develop in children, including leukemias, lymphomas, tumors derived from immature cells (blastomas), soft-tissue sarcomas and brain (or central nervous system) tumors.
For each patient, the treatment plan hinges on the type of cancer and where it’s located in the body. One of the most common options for pediatric patients (0 to 18 years old) with malignant tumors is surgery.
“Most tumors in children can be completely resected either at the time of diagnosis or after several cycles of chemotherapy,” says Emily Christison-Lagay, MD, a Yale Medicine pediatric surgeon, specializing in patients with cancer. “At Yale, we have a large number of subspecialty surgeons who are able to perform even the most complex procedures. These involve specialists of the brain, thyroid, heart, lung, liver, kidney, adrenals, intestines, bladder, muscles and bones.”