The past few decades have seen dramatic improvements in the outlook for children diagnosed with cancer.
Fifty years ago, three-quarters of children diagnosed with cancer died; today more than three-quarters survive:
- The average five-year survival rate, across all childhood cancer types, is 82%
- A child who is still alive five years after diagnosis is generally considered to be cured but some children do relapse (and die) after five years. This means that the ten-year survival rate is slightly lower than the five-year rate (by up to 5%)
- It is estimated that there are more than 35,000 survivors of childhood cancer alive in the UK. This number is growing by around 1,300 per year.
Survival rates vary considerably between different types of childhood cancer and by age and gender (figures quoted below are five-year rates):
- Survival from the eye cancer, retinoblastoma, has now reached 100%. Survival can be at the expense of losing an eye, or if not the eye, then the vision in the affected eye. Sometimes retinoblastoma is bilateral (both eyes) – and vision in both eyes may be lost
- Lymphomas have a high overall survival rate of 91%; within this, survival from Hodgkin lymphoma is 96%, and from non-Hodgkin lymphoma 88%
- Leukaemia has an overall survival rate of 88%; within this, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common form, has a survival rate of 92% and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), 69%
- Brain tumours have an overall survival rate of 75%, but because they are one of the most common tumour types, they account for the highest number of deaths. There are a number of different types of brain tumours; some have a reasonably high survival rate whilst others still have a very poor outlook
- Of the main childhood cancer types, neuroblastoma (67%) and bone tumours (68%) have the worst outlook.