Raising awareness of pediatric sarcoma, other childhood cancers

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Editor's note: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Consider sharing this 
article to raise awareness about the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-14.

By Jennifer O'Hara

Sarcoma — the term for a group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft or connective tissues — is one of the more common types of childhood cancer. 

Fortunately, recent treatment advances have increased survival rates. Of children diagnosed with cancer, 84% now survive five years or more. One of the advances in treatment has been improvement in radiation therapy techniques and the use of proton beam therapy for treating pediatric cancers.

"Radiation therapy works very well for sarcomas," says Wendy Allen-Rhoades, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic pediatric hematologist and oncologist. "And the difference between conventional radiation and proton therapy radiation is that our radiation oncologists are able to contour a little bit tighter with proton therapy. Therefore, the surrounding tissue that is normal is spared from some of the side effects. This is really important in children who are growing because we want them to be able to grow normally."

In addition to sparing healthy tissue from the effects of radiation, people who must undergo radiation therapy early in life are less likely to have long-term side effects and complications, such as secondary cancers, with proton beam therapy than with conventional radiation therapy.

Watch this "Mayo Clinic Q&A" podcast video to hear Dr. Allen-Rhoades discuss pediatric sarcomas and the importance of funding research and supporting families dealing with pediatric cancer:

For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a nonpatient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

Learn more

Learn more about sarcoma and find a sarcoma clinical trial at Mayo Clinic.

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A version of this article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.