Success rate in leukemia treatment in children went up to 92 percent: NGO chair
A group of students paid a visit to the children with leukemia who were being treated in Kayseri Şehir Hospital.
Leukemia has become highly treatable in Turkey, with currently 92 percent of children suffering from the blood cancer responding to the treatment, said Dr. Üstün Ezer, the founder and chairperson of LÖSEV, a Turkish NGO which provides support to children affected by leukemia.
“In the 1990s, before our foundation was established, the success rate in leukemia treatment was 20 percent. This rate, thanks to the tailor-made correct treatments and immunotherapy, has gone up to 92 percent,” said Ezer.
LÖSEV was established in 1998. Prior to this, children with leukemia were treated at public hospitals. In 2000, the foundation founded LÖSANTE Hospital in the capital Ankara, which is the only hospital for children with leukemia in Turkey. The treatment of leukemia is provided free of charge to leukemia-stricken children at this hospital.
Ezer, however, said that despite the improvement rate in the treatment, they are now coming across many children aged younger than one who have leukemia, which was not the case before. “We used to see leukemia in mostly children aged two to five, but now, we have started to see it in also children aged younger than one and in new-born babies. This is startling us; more serious measures need to be taken regarding this issue,” he said.
“For leukemia and cancer to be prevented, there is a need for green spaces and much oxygen. Therefore, instead of turning [the cities] into blocks of concrete and asphalt, it is very important to build more parks, playgrounds and organize activities that will connect children to life,” he said.
According to Ezer, not only medications but also hygiene, good morale and healthy diets are very important in the fight against leukemia. “It is known throughout the world that medications only consist of 50 percent of the fight against leukemia. Hygienic environment, health and natural diet as well as good morale make up the other 50 percent. Therefore, we can increase the success rate in treatment by not leaving our kids alone and by giving them our love and attention during the treatment and afterwards,” he said.
Leukemia, a group of blood cancers, can occur in any age group, but is most common in children aged between two to five, according to experts.
The exact cause of leukemia is not known, but various risk factors have been identified, including radiation exposure, certain chemotherapy for cancer, smoking, family history of leukemia and exposure to certain chemicals such as benzene.
There are different types of leukemia. The most common in children is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Most children with ALL are between the ages of two and five.
Every year between Nov. 2-8, Turkey organizes the Children with Leukemia Week. As part of the campaign, various charity events are held throughout Turkey. The country reports 1,200-1,500 new cases of leukemia for children aged 16 every year.