First release of national childhood cancer stage at diagnosis data

Associate Prof Christine Giles

In a world first, Cancer Australia has released national childhood cancer stage at diagnosis data, showing that a high proportion of the most common childhood cancers are diagnosed at a limited stage.

The new data, which also include five-year survival data, cover the 16 most common childhood cancers, which represent approximately three-quarters of the 750 childhood cancers diagnosed annually in Australia.

Associate Professor Christine Giles, Acting CEO, Cancer Australia, said the new data will provide a much greater understanding of the relationship between stage at diagnosis and survival outcomes for children.

“For example, parents of children diagnosed with cancer can take heart from the finding that not only were 12 of the 16 most common childhood cancers likely to be diagnosed at a limited stage, most of these cancer types also had higher five-year observed survival rates that those diagnosed at an advanced stage,” said Professor Giles.

Key findings from the data include:

  • Staging completeness was high overall (94%) and ranged from 87% for acute myeloid leukaemia to 98% for retinoblastoma and hepatoblastoma.
  • Most childhood cancers were diagnosed at a limited stage, ranging from 63% of cases for medulloblastoma and other CNS embryonal tumours to 95% of cases for retinoblastoma. However some cancers had a high proportion of cases diagnosed at a more advanced stage, including Hodgkin lymphoma (IVA/IVB, 34%) and neuroblastoma (45%) .
  • Childhood cancers diagnosed at a limited stage generally had higher observed survival rates that those diagnosed at an advanced stage. However, five-year observed survival was similar regardless of stage at diagnosis for acute myeloid leukaemia. And for children diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, five-year observed survival was 100% regardless of stage at diagnosis.
  • Five year observed survival was lower than 50% for children diagnosed with metastatic medulloblastoma (44%), non-rhabdomyosarcoma soft tissue sarcoma (40%), osteosarcoma (30%), or rhabdomyosarcoma (47%).

Robert Long, Manager, Cancer Australia, said that, until now, there had been no common and consistent way to record data on childhood cancer stage at diagnosis at a national level.

“This has been an identified gap both in Australia and internationally,” said Mr Long.

“Knowing the distribution of stage at diagnosis and outcomes by stage can assist us in understanding variations in survival, and will help to inform where best to invest our efforts in terms of future research and targeted initiatives to improve outcomes for children with cancer,” said Mr Long.

The release of the data on childhood cancer stage at diagnosis is the result of a collaboration between Cancer Australia and the Australian Childhood Cancer Registry at Cancer Council Queensland.

The childhood cancer stage data can be accessed through Cancer Australia’s Children’s Cancer and National Cancer Control Indicators websites.

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