El Cáncer Infantil: Una Multitud de Enfermedades Raras

Los tumores cerebrales son los más comunes en los niños.

Cada año, el cáncer afecta a miles de niños menores de 15 años y a otros tanto adolescentes entre 15 a 18 años. Detrás del término “cáncer infantil” hay en realidad una multitud de enfermedades raras.

Al proporcionarse información actualizada se dice que dos de cada 10 pequeños pacientes mueren de la enfermedad cada año

Casi la mitad de estos cánceres ocurren antes de los 5 años de edad. Pero bajo el término “cáncer infantil” o cáncer pediátrico son en realidad enfermedades muy diversas: retinoblastoma, neuroblastoma, sarcoma de Ewing, osteoblastoma….

Tumores diferentes a los de los adultos

Los cánceres pediátricos tienen características específicas que no se encuentran en los tumores en adultos. Como señala el Institut Curie, uno de los principales centros de tratamiento e investigación de varios cánceres pediátricos.

En los niños nos encontramos principalmente con leucemias (cánceres de células sanguíneas), linfomas (cánceres del sistema linfático) y los llamados tumores embrionarios. Estos últimos se forman a nivel de órganos o tejidos en desarrollo.

Otras particularidades de estos cánceres: a menudo se desarrollan muy rápidamente (en pocas semanas, a veces en pocos días) debido a la alta proporción de células divisorias en estos tumores. Pero algunos tumores también pueden detener su crecimiento espontáneamente, como el neuroblastoma infantil, por ejemplo.

¿Cómo se hace el diagnóstico?

En los niños, hay pocas señales de advertencia hasta que el tumor ha alcanzado un cierto tamaño. El diagnóstico se basa en el examen microscópico de una muestra tumoral y en exámenes por imágenes. A veces estas pruebas se complementan con un análisis genético o la búsqueda de biomarcadores en la sangre o la orina.

¿Cuáles son los tratamientos?

Una vez realizado el diagnóstico, la quimioterapia se utiliza a menudo como tratamiento de primera línea para reducir el tamaño del tumor. Como es el único tratamiento que puede destruir las células cancerosas en muchas partes del cuerpo, se recomienda para el tratamiento de la leucemia o el linfoma.

la cirugía conservadora, preservando lo mejor posible el órgano en cuestión y los tejidos circundantes, puede ser considerada cuando existe acceso al mismo

La radioterapia se elige como tratamiento de primera línea cuando el tumor no es accesible a la cirugía (por ejemplo, en el caso de ciertos tumores cerebrales). Hoy en día, se utiliza una forma de radioterapia ultra precisa (llamada terapia de protones) para irradiar tumores localizados en el interior profundo, cerca de órganos sensibles, como el nervio óptico o partes del cerebro.

80% de los niños se recuperan

La supervivencia de los niños con cáncer se estima en 92% a 1 año y 82% a 5 años, todos los tipos de cáncer y todas las edades combinados. Pero la probabilidad de curación también varía con la enfermedad.

En el caso del retinoblastoma, uno de los tumores de cáncer infantil más frecuentes que afecta a las células de la retina, la tasa de supervivencia es del 99%. Para las leucemias, la supervivencia a los 5 años es del 90%, mientras que para los sarcomas de tejidos blandos (rabdomiosarcomas) es del 71%.

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