Length of Treatment
Treatment length varies widely based on your child’s diagnosis (the type and stage of the cancer), the age of your child, and other factors. For many children, treatment is a long process of 2 to 3 years. For other children the treatment lasts only 6 months. Ask your doctor for more details on the specific length of your child’s treatment.
Remission means partial or total disappearance of the signs and symptoms of a disease and the period of time during which a disease is under control. For children with solid tumors, this may vary with the diagnosis. Ask your oncologist for more information.
A remission in leukemia means that less than five percent of the bone marrow has cancer cells present. Many children treated for leukemia are in remission at the end of their first treatment phase.
Why must treatment continue if there is no sign of the disease?
Many children reach a point in treatment where there is no evidence of disease (remission). What we know from other children is that if therapy is stopped too early, the disease returns. The disease returns because it has been there all along but with very small numbers of tumor cells that we cannot detect.
One of the characteristics of cancer is its ability to spread to other tissues of the body. Microscopic disease or cancer cells that are difficult to see on scans or in other laboratory tests, is not detected by the technology currently available. It acts as a seed and allows the tumor to re-grow either in its original site or in a different location.
When is my child considered cured?
After a child is done with therapy for some time, the risk of the disease coming back becomes very low. For each type of cancer, this period of time is different. Generally, your child will be considered cured when he/she has been off cancer treatment for several years.
Your child may have health problems related to the treatment of cancer that may require monitoring or treatment for a time after the cancer treatment is completed. Your child will need yearly check-ups to watch for the late effects of the cancer and its treatment.
There is a risk of developing a second cancer 8 to 10 years after the diagnosis and treatment of the first cancer. These second cancers may be a result of the treatment, either radiation therapy or chemotherapy, that was given to treat the first cancer. Cancer treatments can damage normal cells in the body, resulting in a second cancer, years later.
The risk of developing a second cancer in adults is 1 case of second cancer in every 800 adults treated. The risk in children is not yet known. For more information talk to your oncologist.