Childhood Cancer: Leukemia
As a group, leukemias account for about 30% of all childhood cancers and affect more than 600 young Ukrainian people each year. Luckily, the chances for a cure are very good with leukemia. Luckily, the chances for a cure are very good with leukemia. With treatment, most children with leukemia will be free of the disease without it coming back.
In general, leukemias are classified into acute (rapidly developing) and chronic (slowly developing) forms. In children, most leukemias are acute.
Acute childhood leukemias are also divided into acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), depending on whether specific white blood cells called lymphyocytes or myelocytes, which are linked to immune defenses, are involved.
The ALL form of the disease most commonly occurs in younger children ages 2 to 8, but it can affect all age groups. AML can occur at any age, but it is somewhat more common before the age of 2 and during the teenage years.
Treatment for leukemia usually is carried out by a team of specialists, including nurses, social workers, psychologists, surgeons, and other health care professionals. Certain patient features (such as age and initial white blood cell count) are used to help doctors decide which type of treatment will provide the best chance for a cure.
Chemotherapy is the main treatment for childhood leukemia, although the dosages and drug combinations may differ. Chemo can be given by mouth, into a vein, or into the spinal fluid.
Other types of treatment include radiation therapy (high-energy rays that kill cancer cells), targeted therapy (specific drugs that identify and attack cancer cells without hurting normal cells), and stem cell transplants (the introduction of healthy stem cells into the body).
With the proper treatment, the outlook for kids and teens who are diagnosed with leukemia is quite good.
Most childhood leukemias have very high remission rates, with some up to 90% (remission means there is no longer evidence of cancer cells in the body).
Overall cure rates differ depending on the specific features of the disease. And the majority of kids can be cured of the disease (meaning that they are in permanent remission).
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The government-run medical system in Ukraine has numerous downsides. The cost of health care services are high, everyone is supposedly covered, but everyone pays anyway. Being the welfare state it is, in reality, the Ukraine’ health care system is a public/private hybrid.
Additionally, due to the war in eastern Ukraine, the governments budget on social and medical programs were cut drastically. For example, the cost of the leukemia treatment for a child weighing 66 lbs is about $15k.
The government covers only 50% of the cost. The rest has to be paid by the family of a sick child.
Nowadays, the average salary in Ukraine is 4500 ghrivna ($200) so $7,500 to cover the child’s medical expenses is mostly out of reach. Some families go to extremes, including selling their house, or drowning in debt in order to obtain the needed funds.