Each year, thousands of children across America and worldwide are diagnosed with cancer – a frightening and devastating disease that affects all genders, races and backgrounds. In the United States, approximately 43 kids develop cancer every day, the equivalent of two large classrooms. Far too many of us know a child battling cancer, a childhood cancer survivor, or a family who has lost a child. For that reason, September has been declared Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with the goal of bringing more attention to the disease and to hopefully provide a conduit for further research, care and benefits for those facing the battle.
The causes of pediatric cancer are relatively unknown. Unlike adults, cancer in children does not result from outside factors such as smoking or environmental hazards. Pediatric oncology is a medical specialty specifically targeted to treat children with cancer. Children need specialized care designed for their particular age group, as treatments designed for adults are often not appropriate for use in children. Common treatments for pediatric cancer patients include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplant. Each of these forms of treatment has their own risks and difficulties, but fortunately advancements have led to a rise in cure rates.
Even though treatments have improved, pediatric cancer still remains the leading cause of death by disease in children. One in every 285 children in the United States will have cancer before they turn 20. It is estimated that at any given time, there are 40,000 children in treatment. Sadly, one out of eight children will not survive. And for those who do survive, the battle is not over once remission is achieved.
Currently, there are estimated to be 400,000 childhood cancer survivors in the United States. Their survival is to be celebrated, but clearly more needs to be done. In the last 20 years, only four cancer treatments have been specifically developed and approved for children. In fact, since 1980 fewer than ten new drugs have been approved for use in the treatment of children’s cancer.
The good news is that Congress has recently passed the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research (STAR) Act, (H.R. 820) which is the most sweeping childhood cancer legislation ever passed to date. Assuming appropriate funding is assigned, the provisions of the law will expand opportunities for childhood cancer research, improve efforts to identify and track childhood cancer incidences, and enhance the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors. This is very encouraging for the childhood cancer community. While cure rates have improved from 20% in 1975 to between 75-80% presently, thousands of children are still losing the battle, and those who do survive face ongoing severe medical concerns.
For that reason, September is the perfect month to get involved in the fight against childhood cancer by raising awareness. There are many events in the area where you can get involved:
- The Maynard Childhood Cancer Foundation has an ongoing toy, book, and comfort item drive for ongoing delivery to local hospitalized children. To schedule a toy pickup, call the foundation at 804-387-0738.
- Large gold childhood cancer ribbons are also being displayed in company windows/halls throughout Richmond to help raise awareness. (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to participate).
- ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation has a Dunkin Donuts Munchkin Run on November 17 in Richmond. Register at askccf.org.
No child should ever have to fight cancer. Anyone can get involved and make a difference.
About the author: This article was written by 2018 Hometown Hero Cindy Maynard, B.A., J.D. Cindy is the president and co-founder of the Maynard Childhood Cancer Foundation, created to provide critical funding related to the prevention, treatment and ultimate cure of childhood cancer. The Foundation also provides coping materials and quality of life items to hospitalized children on a consistent basis. Cindy is a former civil litigation attorney who now passionately devotes her time to helping kids with cancer. In this capacity, she also serves as a child medical advocate, consultant, lobbyist, speaker and author of a blog called Coping with Childhood Illness.