Understanding Childhood Cancer
- Singer Michael Bublé’s son Noah was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2016 when he was just 3 years old, but he’s been cancer-free since 2017.
- In a recent interview, Bublé opened up about his son’s cancer journey saying that although it’s been almost five years, they still have checkup scans and experience the ‘scanxiety’ that accompanies them.
- Liver cancer in children is extremely rare, but the most common type of pediatric liver cancer is hepatoblastoma.
Known worldwide for his silky vocals and classic Christmas album, the 46-year-old singer has had quite a career in music. But nothing is more important to him than his five-member family. He’s been singing on tour again, but he took a hiatus after his son Noah was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2016 at just 3 years old.Read More
“It’s been almost five years, so we still have the scans and the ‘scanxiety’,” he said. “You know what, I think he’s much better than we are… I think for him he’s this normal little boy who knows that he’s a superhero because dad tells him all the time. But for mum and I, I think even though we’re better it’s definitely something that… it’s there.”
The lingering fear of a cancer recurrence, often referred to as “scanxiety,” is a shared experience among many cancer survivors and their loved ones. And while no one would wish that feeling upon anyone or want to watch their child fight cancer, Bublé admits that his son’s health battle gave him the chance to live a “deeper life.”
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“You know it’s funny, I truly believe that when you’ve truly suffered and when you have gone through adversity it gives you an opportunity to live a deeper life,” Bublé said. “And in a strange way, though I’m happy for people that haven’t had to suffer that kind of pain or that kind of fear, I also, I worry because I know that sometimes when you’ve lived a perfect life without any adversity, then the second something happens people get very bitter, and I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to live a deep life.”
What is Liver Cancer?
Liver cancer begins in the liver – an organ located beneath the diaphragm and above the stomach. The most common form of the disease is hepatocellular carcinoma, but there are other types of liver cancers as well. According to the Daily Mail, Noah battled hepatoblastoma. And while we know that any type of liver cancer in children is extremely rare, the most common type of pediatric liver cancer is in fact hepatoblastoma, according to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Still, only 2 or 3 of 1,000,000 children will be diagnosed with the disease.
Blood tests, ultrasounds, CT scans (X-ray images), MRIs (medical imaging) and angiograms are generally used to confirm a liver cancer diagnosis. A liver biopsy, where a small piece of tissue is removed and analyzed for cancerous cells, may also be performed.
We don’t know too much about what Noah’s course of treatment looked like, but we do know he had surgery to remove a tumor as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Michael Bublé previously told the Evening Standard that the most important part of his son’s treatment was removing the tumor with clean margins, meaning no cancer cells remained on the edges of the tumor site.
Oftentimes, a liver transplant is considered the best plan when the patient is eligible. For cases of recurrent liver cancer and cancer that has spread throughout the body, your doctor may consider targeted therapy, immunotherapy or chemotherapy as the next step.
Understanding Childhood Cancer
Unfortunately, Michael Bublé is not alone in having to watch his child battle cancer.
“We know we’re okay now. But what we went through was f***ing brutal,” Michael Bublé previously said.
Treatment advances in recent decades have lead to 84 percent of children with cancer now surviving five years or more, according to the American Cancer Society. This is up from 58 percent from the mid-1970s.
But according to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, more than 95 percent of childhood cancer survivors have significant health-related issues because of the current treatment options, and only 4 percent of the billions of dollars spent each year on cancer research and treatments are directed towards treating childhood cancer in the United States. Since 1980, fewer than 10 drugs have been developed for use in children with cancer while hundreds of drugs have been created exclusively for adults.
Dr. Elizabeth Raetz, director of pediatric hematology and oncology at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, reminded us in a previous interview that there is still reason for hope.
“There are also targeted treatments and different immunotherapies that have been studied in adults and have now moved into clinical trials for children and there has been a great deal of excitement in the community about that,” Dr. Raetz told SurvivorNet.
Still, navigating a child’s cancer diagnosis can be tricky.
Jayne Wexler’s son battled acute lymphoblastic leukemia and now deals with heart disease as a side effect of chemotherapy. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Wexler explained that in addition to regular parent worries – having a child with cancer means living with a whole new world of anxieties.
“My husband and I will always have fear,” she said. “I don’t think we can ever let go of that. Just when he was OK, then he relapsed, and then he had the bone marrow transplant … so there’s always some sort of worry.”
Wexler admits she tries to live for each and every day, but its understandable that this does not always come easy.
“And I do try – you hear people say this – we do have to live each day and be thankful for what we have,” Wexler said. “And it’s hard to remember that when you’re caught up … it’s very hard to just sort of enjoy the moment, because we just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”