As an oncologist, I deal with life and death cancer challenges confronting adults every day. But in this national month of Childhood Cancer Awareness, I urge us all to consider these youngest cancer victims who have so very much at stake.
The average adult overtaken by cancer loses 15 years of life. That is a lot of time that could be spent with loved ones, grandchildren, or service to others.
Now consider the fate of children. The average age of childhood cancer diagnosis is six, and the average age at death from cancer is eight–they lose on average 71 years of life!
While cancer remains a leading cause of death in children in America, our national response has been inadequate and lacking. Only 201 institutions nationwide treat pediatric cancers, compared to many thousands for adults.
Children of rural and poor families face three times greater risks for late diagnosis, under treatment, relapse of death. They do not suffer from lack of love, but rather sheer distance to treatment and the family resources to get them there and provide homecare.
Did you know that Congress appropriates more research funds for adult male prostate cancer than for all pediatric cancers combined?
Cancer survival rates are expressed in terms of five years more life. While many of my patients are grateful for that time, it means less in the life of a six-year-old. One in three children will not survive 20 years beyond their cancer diagnosis.
We all have been touched by cancer, and many of us mourn its toll. But this month, give special thought to the 700+ Carolina children who will be diagnosed this year, and the thousands more already in treatment or survivorship. Learn more by visiting Carolina’s remarkable childhood cancer safety net–www.childrenscancerpartner.org and see if you can help in some way.
Ki Young Chung, M.D.
Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas