The NICE quality standard includes seven statements, which make recommendations for improving standards of care for children, teenagers and young adults with the disease.
Among these statements is a call for children and young people aged up to 24 to be offered the opportunity to take part in clinical trials, to increase knowledge about the disease and improve survival rates. The standard also advises that patients and their families and carers should have their psychological and social needs assessed at key intervals and receive appropriate support.
NICE recommends that two separate multidisciplinary teams should be assigned to young people who are aged between 16 and 24. One team should have expertise in the specific cancer and the other of looking after teenagers and young adults, to help bridge the gap between paediatric and adult cancer services. This will ensure that a young person’s needs are fully met, a correct diagnosis is made and the most effective treatments are given.
It is estimated that nearly 3,200 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer in England each year. Survival rates have doubled since the 1960s, with 78% of children with cancer now surviving for five years or more after diagnosis. But cancers affecting children and young people can be more complex than those affecting adults.
Development Director at Together for Short Lives, Lizzie Chambers, said: “Together for Short Lives welcomes the new NICE Guidance on improving care for children and young people with cancer.
“It is a real cause for celebration that survival rates have doubled since the 1960s and vital that we continue to develop new treatments and involve children in clinical trials to further increase this. We should not, however, forget the 22% of children and young people with cancer for whom cure will not be possible.
“It is important that palliative care is provided for these children and their families to ensure that they have the appropriate symptom control, care and support throughout the course of their illness and in bereavement.”