Cancer in childhood is a rare disease, but for many reasons attracts interest out of proportion to its frequency. There is, of course, the parental anguish associated with a catastrophic illness in a son or daughter - anguish shared in large measure by the physician. This aspect no doubt has spurred on clinicians and investigators in their race to develop more effective means of treatment. The rewards are great. Not only is there the human element, but there is also the fact that survival of the successfully treated child is measured in scores of years rather than the ordinary five to ten year survival rates cited for the adult. Associated with this aspect of paediatric oncology is the responsibility to make those many years as trouble-free as possible. The challenge to the team organizing the care of children with cancer is clear. Cure is to be obtained, but not at the cost of progressively more severe somatic or psychic lesions as the child develops through adolescence to maturity. The cured child of today must not become the chronically ill adult of tomorrow. The spectrum of malignant diseases in childhood is not so varied as that of older patients. The kinds of tumour seen in children are relatively few in number; therefore, concentrated attention can be focussed on each entity, and specific strategies developed for clinical management.
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