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Nine out of 10 children treated for leukaemia at Poole Hospital will beat the disease

The survival rate for children aged 1-16 with leukaemia is now at 90 per cent at Poole Hospital after continued developments in cancer treatment.

This is thanks to a systematic approach to treatment including a complex chemotherapy regime, a protective antibiotic schedule and supportive blood and platelet transfusions.

Antibiotics are given to ill patients within an hour of arrival and community nurses regularly administer blood tests at home or at school as children with leukaemia require up to 105 a year.

The international survival rate for children’s leukaemia has continued to improve - from 75 per cent in the 1980s, to 84 per cent in 1990s, and 87 per cent between 2001-2010.

The success of leukaemia treatment trials in the 70th year of the NHS allows clinicians to look beyond improving survival to focus on reducing side-effects which can impact growth, brain development and cause bone changes and heart and kidney problems.

The hospital’s paediatric oncology department coordinates its treatments with Southampton General Hospital, who administer some types of chemotherapy and have dedicated paediatric oncologists who specialise in children’s cancer, but a lot of the service is now undertaken at Poole Hospital. Dr Martin Hussey leads the local paediatric oncology care with the support of Dr Mark Tighe and Nikki Ratsey, paediatric oncology specialist nurse, with additional dedicated psychology, dietetic and play support.

“The development of cancer care at Poole Hospital has been vital for children in Dorset who are sadly diagnosed with leukaemia,” said Sarah Chessell, head of the trust’s research and innovation team that assists the cancer teams in collecting data from drug administration.

“This service provision means patients don’t have to travel long-distances to receive care - which can reduce valuable treatment time and decrease quality of life - and they can see a consultant they know who is closer to their home and family.”

Two children who benefited from the developments are Caitlin Green and Freya Barry.

Caitlin and Freya were diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in 2015 when they were two-years-old. Now aged five, they are both in remission.

Nichola Green, Caitlin’s mother, was very positive of the care her daughter received. “We couldn’t have wished for better care,” she said.

“We had a wonderful relationship with the doctors and nurses who took time to sit with us on both the good and the bad days and do little things like bringing you a coffee when you haven’t slept.

“Not a day goes past without me feeling grateful - she’s here because of the treatment she received, without a doubt.”

Nathalie Barry, Freya’s mother, echoed Nichola’s thoughts. “The service from the oncology and paediatric departments has been great,” she added. 

Nathalie Barry, Freya Barry, Caitlin Green, Nichola Green

Nathalie Barry, Freya Barry, Caitlin Green and Nichola Green in the paediatric unit

Dr Mark Tighe, paediatric consultant, and the lead for paediatric research in Poole, believes that “the research has ‘become a model for other programmes’.

“Our systematic research programme for ALL has become a model for other research programmes across the NHS,” said Mark.

“There have been huge leaps and bounds nationally in the treatment of leukaemia for children - deaths are now rare and significant side effects are decreasing.”

The early signs of leukaemia include easy bruising, nose bleeds, rashes that don’t go away when pressed, a persistent limp, pale skin, unexpected weight loss, new night sweats and swollen glands greater than two centimetres in size. If you believe that you or your child has any of these symptoms, contact your GP who, if concerned, will organise referral to a hospital or a blood test.

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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