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Scottish child cancer deaths fall by one-third over 10 years

THE rate at which children die from cancer in Scotland has dropped by more than a third in the past decade, according to a cancer charity.

Around 110 children north of the Border are diagnosed with the disease each year. A decade ago around 30 child patients died from the disease each year, but thanks to better treatments the figure has dropped to around 20 a year, with the steepest decline in leukaemia.

To mark the start of an awareness month for childhood cancer, Cancer Research UK has released figures which show annual deaths from the most commonly diagnosed children's cancer have been cut by 50 per cent to five.

The charity's Scottish spokeswoman Lisa Adams said: "It's so encouraging to see more and more children surviving cancer. We hope the figures released today will inspire people to give what they can."

Much of the success in tackling childhood cancers is due to combining a number of different chemotherapy drugs.

Ms Adams hailed the success of Cancer Research UK's decade-long partnership with the retailer TK Maxx, which has raised £13.2 million towards research into children's cancers.

Meanwhile, a study has revealed most Scots are unaware that 1,600 children are diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year. The YouGov survey for the CLIC Sargent charity found more than a quarter of Scots did not know how many children were diagnosed, while a third underestimated the figure.

Most people did not realise how far families have to travel, often several times a week, so that children can receive specialist cancer treatment. Over a fifth did not know the distance and 28 per cent underestimated the average 60-mile round trip.

The additional cost cancer imposes on the families of children affected was also underestimated by many. CLIC Sargent says the average cost to a family of a child with cancer was £4,400. This covers items such as travel, accommodation and food.

Many children gain and lose weight at different stages of treatment, meaning extra expense is incurred for clothing, too, the charity said.

CLIC Sargent provides emotional and practical support children diagnosed with cancer.

It also says many children who have suffered cancer are bullied when they return to school after treatment, which a fifth of those surveyed found unbelievable.

As part of the awareness month it is teaming up with other UK charities to highlight the issues around childhood cancers and urging people to wear a gold ribbon to show their support.

The latest figures found people in Scotland were better informed than those elsewhere about the impact a diagnosis has on parents' employment, with more than two-thirds realising most parents have to cut the hours they work when their child is being treated.

Most Scots also thought there was a need for better support to be offered to families.

Nine out of ten agreed families affected by cancer should have access to emotional support from trained professionals during their child's treatment, 85 per cent say financial support should be offered and 81 per cent thought families should have both.

CLIC Sargent chief executive Lorraine Clifton said: "Many people in Scotland simply do not know children get cancer and that, though childhood cancer is thankfully rare, a child's cancer diagnosis and often long cancer treatment can have a devastating impact on children and their families.

"Cancer is a frightening experience and the emotional, practical and financial implications are intensely challenging for the whole family."

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