Around 2 and a half years ago, then-6-year-old Christian McPhilamy decided to grow his hair long.
He was bullied at school and often mistaken for a girl — but he never shifted his mindset as he had a specific goal in mind: to donate 10-inch-long locks of his hair to make wigs for children being treated for cancer.
When he was just six years old, McPhilamy, was inspired by a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital advertisement that he saw on TV one day.
“Some people tried to call me a girl,” McPhilamy shared with Florida Today, admitting how being bullied made him feel “not very good,” but it never stopped him along the way.
Even adults tried to encourage him to cut his hair — later apologizing after he explained his mission.
And after 2 and 1/2 long years, his parents cut his hair off in 4, 10-inch ponytails and donated them to Children with Hair Loss.
Childhood cancer is also defined as pediatric cancer — which means a cancer that is found in both children and teens as well as young adults.
It is not just one disease but many types — all of which can be found in different places throughout the body.
The most common cancer in children, is type of blood cancer in children or leukemia.
Cancer is also able to occur in organs as well as tissues like the lymph nodes (lymphoma), nervous system (brain tumors) and muscles, bone and skin (solid tumors).
Each year, cancer is diagnosed in about 175,000 children ages 14 and under across the globe.
It is also the leading cause of death by disease past infancy for U.S. children.
But thanks to better therapies, over 80% of U.S. childhood cancer patients now have become long-term survivors.
Survival rates can very depending on the type of cancer and about 420,000 childhood cancer survivors reside in the U.S. with many more around the globe.
While the causes of childhood cancer are not completely understood — adult cancer is often linked to either lifestyle or environmental factors.
But cancer in children is different in a multitude of ways.
Cancer in a young person is less likely to be caused by the patient’s environment or lifestyle but rather cancer-causing genetic changes called mutations — which are thought to occur by chance.
But in 8% of cases, children are born with genetic changes that increase their risk of getting cancer.
And when it comes to treatment, it depends on the type of cancer.
Treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or sometimes, immunotherapy.
A patient sometimes receives more than one of these treatments.
When it comes to the length of time needed for treatment differs depending on the type of cancer.
Generally, treatments take several months or even years.
Both researchers as well doctors are working on new therapies for children with cancer.
Of these treatments, precision medicine targets specific genetic changes in the cancer.
After the cancer treatment is complete, patients often continue to receive follow-up care.
Cancer treatments save lives but can also cause health issues later in life.
Childhood cancer survivors should taker care of their health, receive regualr checkups and give their local doctor details about their cancer history.
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