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Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center

Contact the Sickle Cell Disease Program

Sickle Cell Disease in Children

  • Normal blood cells are smooth, round, flexible and shaped like the letter O. However, if your child has sickle cell disease, his blood cells can become stiff, sticky and shaped like the letter C, causing a variety of problems.

    Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that occurs when a protein called hemoglobin is defective.

    • It’s estimated that more than 70,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease.

    • All children born in the United States are a result, most children are diagnosed very early on.

    • The disease primarily affects children of African descent and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry. It also occurs in children of Middle-Eastern and Indian descent.

    • Sickle cell disease affects hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.

    • Sickle cell is inherited, passed from parent to child through a defective hemoglobin gene and is not contagious.

    • The symptoms and severity of the disease varies depending on the specific type of sickle cell disease.

    • Anemia is the most common symptom of all variations of sickle cell. Stem cell transplant may offer a cure for some patients.

    How Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center approaches sickle cell disease

    Children with sickle cell disease are treated through the Sickle Cell Disease Treatment Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, an integrated pediatric hematology and oncology partnership between Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital. Our expert hematologists diagnose and treat children and young adults with sickle cell disease of all types.

    Our physicians and nurses work to maintain the well-being of more than 200 children affected by sickle cell disease—and their families—by focusing on health maintenance strategies, including:

    • Understanding how to recognize the early signs of complications,
    • Teaching preventive therapies that help your child avoid symptoms>
    • Screening for acute complications

    Because sickle cell can affect nearly every major organ in the body, children in this program also receive treatment from other specialty programs at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s, on an as-needed basis.

    In addition, through Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, patients have access to one of the largest pediatric transplantation programs in the United States. Our program is actively pursuing protocols for transplantation of blood-related disorders, including sickle cell disease.

The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO