Concern over child cancer rates

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Timaru man Terrance Page is calling for a review into what he describes as an alarming rate of child cancer in New Zealand.
Mr Page wants a select committee to be formed to investigate the matter and more money earmarked for research.
His niece Macey Burgess (11) was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in February and is undergoing treatment, including chemotherapy.
‘‘Having had cancer myself, chemotherapy is nasty. It’s hard for an adult but I can’t imagine how a child copes,’’ Mr Page said.
‘‘I know how awful it was for me and it is hard to believe it is given to children.
‘‘Macey has had her 16-week treatment of chemo in the Christchurch Hospital oncology ward, where I have seen too many bald children, including toddlers, which has had an effect on me.’’
Mr Page (47) said he could not recall childhood cancer during his formative years.
‘‘It was never around when I was at school.
‘‘If a review finds a link which saves one suffering child, hopefully heaps will be spared and that could take away much heartache, because parents uproot their lives to be with their children, being away from home, adding to so much stress.’’
Mr Page said he wanted an investigation into ‘‘why children are being diagnosed with cancer at such young ages’’.
‘‘Some people want to know what is going on. It’s not just kids, it’s toddlers.
‘‘Get some money and review it, please. The Government is going to spend a lot of money on obesity. What about child cancer?’’
Macey’s mother, Kathryn Page, said her daughter had undergone extensive treatment including the use of a ‘‘huge amount of drugs’’. ‘‘Macey is good at the moment. Her bloods are really good. We are going back to Timaru Hospital for regular checks.’’
Ms Page said her daughter would eventually recover.
Child Cancer Foundation communications manager Cherie Reid said there had been about 175 new referrals to the foundation in New Zealand each year over the past five financial years.
The foundation was supporting 10 families in Timaru, she said.
Ms Reid said paediatric oncologist Andrew Wood, from the University of Auckland, was undertaking a research programme to ‘‘study and model the genetic mistakes driving childhood leukaemia with the ultimate goal of finding an Achilles heel that can be exploited to treat leukaemia in new ways’’.
‘‘Dr Wood’s work is being supported by the Child Cancer Foundation, Cure Kids, and the Auckland Medical Research Foundation Goodfellow Repatriation Award.
‘‘The Child Cancer Foundation works alongside health professionals to encourage further research and education to ensure that every New Zealand child facing cancer has the best possible outcome, in recent years, the foundation has also contributed towards research into the late effects of cancer treatment,’’ Ms Reid said.
Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew said she would not comment on the matter.