Sunday, January 6, 2013
So, as I have previously written, childhood cancer is a subject of great importance to me. Childhood cancer is also a subject of great ignorance of the general population. Most people have seen the smiling bald children on the commercials for the American Cancer Society, or St. Jude’s, but not many continue on to think more about children with cancer.
The reality is that childhood cancer is not as rare as you think. With an incidence of 1 in 330 children and over 10,000 cases diagnosed yearly in the US alone, childhood cancer is huge. This number doesn’t include the number of children continuing with their second or third year of treatment, or those who have relapsed. It is because of these numbers that cancer is the number one disease-related killer of our children. This comes after the other diseases that run headlines: cystic fibrosis, AIDS, asthma, congenital defects.
These treatments are harsh, causing effects like infertility and secondary cancers. Treatments include chemotherapies, surgeries and radiation treatments, all of which are dangerous on their own, let alone in tandem with the killer that is cancer. Multiple studies have implicated radiation of the nervous system and head with lower mental facilities, including lower IQ scores of up to 15 points (one standard deviation), as well as impaired functioning in day to day activities.
Diagnosis of childhood cancers is also woefully inadequate. A 1994 study showed the average time between a child first showing symptoms and being diagnosed was 17 weeks! That’s an entire semester of school, one third of a calendar year. Hopefully this time has been shortened since then, but definitely not to the level one would hope for. Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue tumor, forms in two main types, alveolar and embryonal. Alveolar rhabdo was found to be misdiagnosed 40% of the time, usually as embryonal (20% of misdiagnoses). These two types of cancer have remarkably different pathologies, treatments and prognosis, yet this mistake is extremely common.
Today, I call for reform. In 2009, the members of congress unanimously voted for and signed into law the Childhood Cancer Hope Act, pledging increased funding towards childhood cancer and improvements in diagnosis, treatment and long term support. Since then, no increase in research funding for pediatric oncology was seen. In fact, funding decreased. Why would congress completely pledge support for something, but then turn their back? Why has funding stayed steady or increased for the most common adult cancers, which have survival rates of 95-98%, while children’s survival rates have stayed at 75-80% since the 1980s? Some childhood cancer survival rates are under 50%, and for DIPG, a brain tumor, 90% don’t survive 18 months.
We need to remind congress of the pledge they took: to end childhood cancer, a scourge that takes 7 of our precious children each day. Write to your congressman/woman, remind them of the pledge they took. Remind them that they must protect our richest treasure, the future of our nation, the children. The duty of the government is to protect those who lack a voice. Since they can’t seem to do this, we must make our voice heard! Call, write, email, tell everybody that childhood cancer is not rare, that it kills more children yearly than AIDS, athsma, heart defects and cystic fibrosis combined, that children with cancer matter.
You can find your congress people at the website http://www.thetruth365.org/pledge/ . For more ideas on how you can give children with cancer a voice, visit the Truth 365 and watch their video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oljTL1iuMmY . I also invite you to look through the “Links” page here on my blog to find more sites about childhood cancer.