Every day in the United States, an average of 42 families are hit with the tragic news that their child has cancer. Childhood cancer is still the leading cause of death in children under 15 years old. This is, despite the 30% increase, from 50% to 80%, in 5-year survival for children with cancer.
September is the month to remember and honor the children who have passed. But also to celebrate the advancements in diagnostics and treatments which have generated five-year survival rate increases from 50% to 80%. It is the time to come together to jointly recognize the strong effort that is needed to make meaningful progress towards fully beating childhood cancer. Finally, it is the time to provide support in any and all possible ways.
Childhood cancer poses unique challenges which are hard to overcome.
Currently, the vast majority of research funding goes to adult cancer, leaving many childhood cancers under studied. Given this reality, childhood cancer treatment often mimics similar adult cancer treatments without always taking into account the meaningful difference between adult and children physiology. As a result, treatments for childhood cancer are often critically toxic. They can severely and negatively impact childhood development and long-term health. In addition, the root causes of many childhood cancers are largely unknown.
Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. It, along with other childhood cancers like brain tumors and neuroblastomas, poses unique challenges but that sometimes result in innovative solutions. Leukemia, which makes up 30% of childhood cancer diagnoses, has seen vast improvements over the last 60 years. Too, progress in battling the disease has birthed new forms of cancer treatment, namely targeted therapies.
There’s another area of childhood cancer which is too often ignored: the strain it puts on family’s finances, well-being and mental health. Everyone loses when a child is diagnosed with cancer. The patient undergoes significant physical, emotional and social stress. The families are often heart-broken, while simultaneously needing to take time off of work to transport and care for their children. School is often placed on the back burner causing learning delays. The cost for treatment can also be very high, depending on insurance status.
It’s important that everyone come together in recognition of the challenges posed by childhood cancer.
With this recognition, it is possible to strategize and support progress. This may mean donating to childhood cancer research, supporting families in need, sharing information on upcoming clinical trials, or even “just” being emotionally available to those impacted by the devastating disease.
Together, progress is possible.
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