Monday, September 10, 2012

Curing Childhood Cancer

What would it mean to cure childhood cancer?
Let's think it terms of lives saved. Every year about 12500 children are diagnosed with cancer, and this number is increasing. Yes, more children are diagnosed with cancer each year. About 20% of these children will die within five years, and another 5% within ten (so 25% total over 10 years). At the current rate, 2500 children die each year, about 7 each day. That's a minivan of kids each day (a 16 year old driver and 6 passengers under 20) that are dying from cancer; a typical elementary school class every three days. If you heard a story on the news about 7 kids massacred, you would be shocked, horrified and outraged. You would demand harsh punishment, maybe even the death penalty to the killer. Now, imagine this happens everyday, but it's the same killer. That's childhood cancer.
So, if we cured childhood cancer, 2500 kids per year would be given a chance to reach adulthood and live happy lives. That's more than curing pediatric HIV/AIDS, athmsa, birth defects, cystic fibrosis, and diabetes, combined. This would also give the two thirds of survivors who suffer from harsh treatment effects a better life (that's 6600 kids per year). That's an improvement to 9100 lives improved, and that's just patients. If we factor in siblings, parents and friends, the number grows exponentially.
Now, let's look at Pontential Years of Life Lost. PYLL is the number used by many organizations to normalize the amount of money put into certain diseases (to see if they are financially worth supporting). PYLL is the number of years lost prematurely due to a disease. For example, the average age for breast cancer diagnosis is 65 years old, and the average age of death in the US is 77 (for women). So, the PYLL for a breast cancer survivor is 12. In contrast, the average PYLL for childhood cancer is 67-70, where the average diagnosis is around 7-10.
While there are many more diagnosises of breast cancer a year, when one multiplies the numbers of diagnosises with the the PYLL, childhood cancer and breast cancer cause equal losses of Productive Years each year.
Now if we take the funding recieved by a disease and divide it by the total yearly PYLL, we get the funding per lost year of life. Let compare some common cancers:
  • Prostate Cancer-$896/ year lost. The average age of diagnosis is 72, and the survival rate is 99%
  • Breast Cancer - $100/ year lost. The average age of diagnosis is 61, and the survival rate is 90%.
  • Childhood cancers - $24/ year lost. The average age of daignosis is between 7 and 10, and the survival rate is between 80 and 65%.
So, childhood cancer costs as many years of life as breast cancer, but it recieves much less funding. Is that fair? No!
What can we do? Write to your representatives, tell them how much we need funding for childhood cancer research. Raise awareness. The more voices yelling, the louder we will be. Donate and raise funds for pediatric cancer research organizations, such as CureSearch and St. Baldricks. Get involved. Cure Childhood Cancer

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