At the Kids Cancer Centre (KCC), the motto is ‘Cure is not enough.’ The aim of the Oncology team is to have survivors who are free of handicaps caused by their disease or its treatment, who are able to keep up and compete with their peers, who are employable, insurable and able to take their rightful place in society.
Since the 1960s, the proportion of children surviving five years or more after being diagnosed with cancer has risen from less than 25 per cent to about 80 per cent. In Australia and other western countries, it is estimated one in every 640 young adults (aged 16 to 45) will be a survivor of childhood cancer. This translates into about 21,000 survivors in Australia.
Care and follow-up of this expanding long-term survivor group has become a vital part of paediatric oncology.
During the first five years after diagnosis, the main focus of the medical team is on detecting early complications of therapy and checking for any signs the disease is coming back. This changes when a child passes the five-year mark from diagnosis, at which point the main focus shifts to identifying signs of any late effects of therapy.