Memorial is Helping Kids Beat Cancer - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Memorial is Helping Kids Beat Cancer

SAVANNAH, GA -

Childhood cancer rates have been rising slightly for the past few decades.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it remains the second leading cause of death for children younger than 15 years old.

It's a staggering reality that fuels doctors at one local facility to put their heart into fighting to save young lives.

Today, I paid a visit to Memorial University Medical Center to meet the ones making a difference.

When we entered the Children's Hospital, we were greeted by a wall filled with pictures of smiley kids. Most had hair.

Are these some of your kids? Are these the ones you see here?" I asked.

"Yes these are some of our kids," says Dr. Martin Johnston.

Dr. Johnston is a Pediatric Cancer Specialist at Memorial, and he says the list of kids he sees here continues to grow.

"On average, we see anywhere from 30 to 40 new patients a year with some sort of a cancer diagnosis. The diseases we see in kids are very different from adults. We don't see breast cancer, colon cancer or lung cancer."

But instead, he sees lymphoma, brain tumors and leukemia. Dr. Johnston says there are some common misconceptions about treatment available here in Savannah.

"I will ask how many people have heard of Saint Jude's, and they all say ‘oh, we have heard of Saint Jude's. That's where kids with cancer go.'

And then I ask well what about the Children's Oncology Group. No one raises their hand."

Memorial is one of about 200 hospitals that make up the "Children's Oncology Group." That means children will receive the exact same treatment as they would in larger hospitals, without having to uproot and travel.

"Having a child with cancer is a big deal for a family. The easier we can make it for them, the better."

Most children receiving treatment can get it in outpatient. But there are others, who need a little extra care, and they are brought to the Pediatric Specialty Unit.

Dr. Johnston takes us to check in on a little girl. She is fighting a rare type of leukemia and is now in her second round of chemo. Dr. Johnston says she is doing remarkably well.

"Trust me, when she is awake she is going a mile a minute like any other 2 year old child, and frankly you would not know she was sick. After one month of treatment, her cancer is now in remission, which means we have treated it to the point where you don't see it anymore."

He says about 80 percent of children make it through and go on to live full and happy lives. However, it's not all about numbers.

"You don't care whether your child has a 62 percent chance or a 47 percent chance, or a 98 percent chance; you just want them to have a chance. Our goal is to give them that chance, regardless of what the statistics say."

Through the Children's Oncology Group protocol, children are placed on clinical trials for treatment--that way doctors can collect larger numbers, measure the outcomes and get even better at saving lives.

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