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:
- More than 8 in 10 (82%) children diagnosed with cancer in Great Britain survive their disease for five years or more (2006-10).
- 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 around 7%)
- By the end of 2012 it was estimated that there were at least 33,000 people in the UK who are alive having previously been diagnosed with a childhood cancer and who survived their cancer for at least five years. This figure does not include data for young adults with cancer.
Survival rates vary considerably between different types of childhood cancer and by age and gender (figures quoted below are five-year rates):
- Childhood 5-year survival rate of retinoblastoma in England is 99%. 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%
- In UK young adult men, 5-year relative survival for Hodgkin lymphoma is 93.5% and for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 77.1%. In UK young adult women, 5-year relative survival for Hodgkin lymphoma is 94.6% and for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 79.3%.
- 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), 70%
- 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 (65%) have the worst outlook. Young adult UK 5-year relative survival rates for bone tumours are 55.8% for both males and females. They have among the worst survival outlook compared to other cancers. Childhood 5-year survival rates in England for neuroblastoma and bone tumours are 67% and 65% respectively. They have the worst survival outlook compared to other cancers.