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Going For The Gold - Raising Awareness About Children's Cancers

I am constantly humbled by the stories and life experiences that women share with me

. I am also grateful for what you all teach me. I recently received an email from a woman who wore my scarves during her treatment, sharing some very important information with me. She said, "September is also Childhood Cancer Awareness month. The ribbon color is gold. Did you know that?" I'm ashamed to say I did not know that.

September and October have always been busy advocating months for me as September is Alopecia Awareness and Ovarian Cancer Awareness months and as is well known, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How could I not know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month!? I cannot recall ever having heard, read or watched any sort of publicity about it. Not only am I grateful for this information, but it compelled me to find out more about childhood cancers. What I learned really has me wondering why we don't know more about the prevalence and impacts of childhood cancers. Allow me to share a few facts:

Each school day, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer.

One in 330 children will develop cancer by age 20.

Each year in the U.S. over 12,600 children are diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer remains the number one disease killer of America's children - more than Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Asthma and AIDS combined.

80% of children have metastatic disease at time of diagnosis as compared to only 20% of adults.

(Source: http://www.candlelighters.org)

As much as I and my family have been affected by various types of cancer, I know that nothing would be more devastating than learning that one of my son's had cancer - NOTHING. Given that the parents of over 12,600 children face such devastation each year in the U.S., why haven't I heard more about it? I found some clues - money, money, money. I took the following from excerpt from Candlelighters:

(http://www.candlelighters.org/Information/AboutChildhoodCancer/ChildhoodCancerStatistics/tabid/290/Default.aspx)

Federal funding for childhood cancer research is predominantly allocated through the National Cancer Institute (NCI) (http://www.cancer.gov). In 2007, the NCI reported that the combined extramural and intramural funding for childhood cancer research was approximately $180 million. However, this estimate could be regarded as liberal as some of the associated research might not be perceived as directly benefiting childhood cancer. Other more conservative estimates, put childhood cancer research funding as low as $30 million annually.

To put this figure in perspective, the NCI allocated $572.4 million on breast cancer research in 2007. Other NIH Institutes funded breast cancer research at a level of $132.6 million in the same year; and the Department of Defense, which also supports breast cancer research, allocated an additional $138 million. As a comparison, breast cancer with its overall 5 year survival rate of close to 90% received $843 million in Federal research funding in 2007. This was in addition to the funds raised by breast cancer organizations through their pink ribbon campaigns and private donations. It is estimated that the success of those initiatives raises approximately $256 million in the combined assets of the top four breast cancer organizations.

Breast cancer is the sixth most common cause of death by disease of women in America (behind heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, respiratory disease and Alzheimer's). In comparison, cancer is the number one cause of death by disease of America's children. In terms of person years life lost (PYLL), the average age at diagnosis of breast cancer is 61, with a calculated 16 PYLL. In contrast, the average age that a child is diagnosed with cancer is 10. This calculates to 67 PYLL. Sixty seven years of life lost when a child dies from cancer.

Like breast cancer, childhood cancer has an international symbol "the gold ribbon." I had no idea. Now that I know, I feel compelled to do my part to raise awareness and help the "gold ribbon" become a globally recognized symbol of hope and survival for our youngest cancer patients.

These words have touched me in a very special way:

"Cancer took my breasts and I was okay.

Cancer took my colon and I was just fine.

Cancer took my son and I don't know how we are going to make it."

by: 4WomenAbout the Author:Susan Beausang is President and Founder of 4Women.com (http://www.4women.com). You can view a documentary about her story as a woman with Alopecia Universalis here (http://www.4women.com/brave_beauty.php). You can read her story about being a BRCA2 carrier and one of 3 generations of breast cancer survivors here (http://www.4women.com/blog/?p=75).


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