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Montana Kids With Cancer Travel For Treatment

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BOZEMAN -

More than 15,000 children under the age of 19 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014.

That's according to predictions made by the American Cancer Society.

Allistaire Anderson was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December of 2011. It happens when bone marrow cells don't mature the way they are supposed to.

At that time she and her family were living in Washington. But, the next year they moved to Montana.

Since October, Allistaire and her mom have been traveling back and forth to Seattle for treatment.

"It's very time consuming. Obviously, driving takes a lot longer than if we were to fly," said Jai Anderson, Allistaire's mom. "Financially it's a big constraint. The other side to that is the emotional support and having to do everything alone."

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014, one in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20.

Business Operations Manager for Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center, Spencer Green said a majority of childhood cancers have to be treated elsewhere such as Seattle, Denver or Salt Lake.

"There's just not enough cases to support a full time physician and there wouldn't be enough work here for them to do," said Green.

Anderson said in 2011, there were 45 pediatric cancer cases in the state, five in the Gallatin Valley. There are only two oncologists in the state who specialize in pediatric cancer. As a result, many young cancer patients travel to get life-saving treatments.

"The bigger centers will work with our physicians and come to terms with what they would be good to handle here," said Green.

Green hopes in the future there will be more opportunities at Bozeman Deaconess for families like Allistaire's.

"As our population grows and the cases might become more prevalent, there might be a threshold to have more specialists here," said Green.

Anderson said every time they come back home to Bozeman from treatment, they are grateful.

"It's a privilege to be able to drive home for a few weeks a time versus being stuck out there for the entire time," said Anderson.

Bozeman Deaconess is currently a Seattle Cancer Center Alliance.

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