Stem cell therapy can save lives. Today, it is possible to treat over 80 diseases using umbilical cord blood stem cell therapy. However, one area where saving cord blood is proving to be exceptionally helpful is in the treatment of childhood cancers. Here’s all you need to know.
Unlike in adults, childhood cancer is caused by early DNA changes. The good news is that most, almost 80%, of childhood cancers are treatable. However, the diagnosis and treatment need to be on time. If the diagnosis and treatment are done on time, these kids can live a long cancer-free life.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in India, nearly 75,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year. India is home to at least 20% of the global childhood cancer cases. With the increased popularity of stem cell therapy, it is now possible to treat many of these cancers effectively and efficiently, helping these children live long and cancer-free life.
Common Childhood Cancers and Their Symptoms
Most children diagnosed with cancer are found to be suffering from one of the five most common childhood cancers. These are:
Blood Cancer or Leukaemia
Almost 30% of cancer among children is leukaemia. It is a disorder of the bone marrow. When the bone marrow stops producing blood and produces unwanted white blood cells or lymphoblasts, it causes leukaemia. The two most common types of leukaemia among children are:
- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL)
- Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)
The symptoms of leukaemia can appear in various forms. As a parent, if you notice any of the following, consult with your paediatrician immediately.
- Regular infections
- A change in the appearance of the skin is caused due to excess production of white blood cells. The appearance of the skin may turn pale or yellow
- Recurring fever
- Profuse bleeding
- Low platelet count
- Bone pain
- Swelling in the joints
A bone marrow test can detect the presence of childhood malignancy.
Almost 25% of cancer in children is due to pediatric brain tumours. The symptoms depend on the location of the tumour. When the cerebrospinal fluid spreads through the body, it causes problems. The child can lose speech if the tumour is near the speech centre. Some common symptoms of paediatric brain tumours are:
- Chronic nausea
- Slurred speech or loss of speech
- Vision problems
- Cross eye
Another common cancer among kids is lymphoma, or the cancer of lymph nodes and glands. If diagnosed early, lymphoma in children is treatable. The most common symptoms of lymphoma are:
- Swelling or lump in the neck. However, the swelling can appear in other parts of the body too
- Bulging mass in the stomach
- Intestinal pain
- Swelling in the stomach
- Difficulty passing bowel
Neuroblastoma is more prevalent among kids below the age of five years. The symptoms of neuroblastoma vary depending on the location of the tumour. However, some of the common symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore are:
- Presence of a hard mass in the stomach
- High blood pressure
- Bulging eyes
Cancer of the kidneys is another common type of cancer among kids. It usually has no typical symptoms. Still, you may watch out for the following:
- Blood in the urine
- Loss of appetite
- High blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
This is cancer of the eye. It is curable in nine out of 10 patients. It usually affects children under the age of five. It can affect both eyes or only one retina. The most common symptom is an unusual white reflection on the pupil.
What Causes Childhood Cancer?
The causes of most childhood cancers are not known. About 5% of childhood cancers are caused by an inherited genetic mutation. Most childhood cancers develop as a result of a mutation in genes that causes uncontrolled cell growth and later on paediatric cancer.
Some studies have linked childhood cancer to exposure to parental smoking or radiation. However, the research needs more data to conclusively prove this. So far, childhood cancer is not related to environmental factors.
Childhood Cancer Diagnosis
Diagnostic protocol varies depending on symptoms and the type of cancer suspected. It also depends on the age of your child. However, most probably your doctor will conduct some of the following procedures to confirm childhood malignancy.
- Blood test
- Bone Marrow Aspiration
- Lumbar Puncture
- CT Scan or CAT scan
- PET or PT scan
How Does Cord Blood Help to Cure Childhood Cancers?
More than 40,000 cord blood transplants have been performed globally to treat blood disorders and leukaemia. Umbilical cord blood stem cells have proved to be effective in childhood leukaemia treatment. Umbilical cord blood stem cell is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that can transform themselves into any type of blood cell. That is why they are used in treating the most common types of cancers like leukaemia, lymphoma, and neuroblastoma.
Chemotherapy is the most common cancer therapy. Chemotherapy destroys cancerous cells. However, the downside of chemotherapy is that it can cause significant damage to the body. Chemotherapy is especially hard on children. Chemotherapy makes it hard to produce new healthy cells and makes the child’s body vulnerable to infections.
This is where umbilical cord blood stem cells can be used to treat the most common type of cancer after chemotherapy. The HSCs found in umbilical cord blood stem cells can help to regenerate healthy blood cell production. This will help the body to restore immunity and promote recovery.
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Research is going on to find new treatments for the most common form of cancer among children. Umbilical cord blood stem cells have proven to be an effective solution to treating most common childhood leukaemia. You get only one chance to extract and save your baby’s umbilical cord blood— at the time of birth. Umbilical cord blood collection and preservation is a painless process that causes no discomfort to the mother or the baby. So, what are you waiting for? Make the right decision and safeguard your child’s health and future.