Childhood Cancer Awareness Month marks the month of September, and it’s an ideal time to both reflect on the realities of both incidents of the disease in our kids but also the strides that are being taken in the scientific community to combat it.
The Canadian Cancer Society designates September as Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and the organization describes it also as a time to educate the public about pediatric cancers.
Fifty years ago, almost all children diagnosed with cancer had little hope of survival. Because of research, today about 85% of kids with the most common types of cancer will go on to lead healthy, productive lives.
However, not all forms of cancer are as well understood. Research is therefore the key to discovering more about how cancer behaves and how we can help cure it.
According to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, there are about 10,000 children living with cancer in Canada today. Each year, about 1,500 cases are diagnosed.
Leukemias, tumors of the brain, nervous/lymphatic system, kidneys, bones and muscles are the most common childhood cancers. In Canada, childhood cancer remains responsible for more deaths from one year through adolescence than any other disease.
Leukemia is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in children, comprising some 30% of the total new cases diagnosed each year.
The Montreal Children’s Hospital also points out that children are not simply smaller adults. Some cancers almost never strike after the age of five. Others occur most often in teenagers.
Even when kids get cancers that adults get, like lymphoma, they must be treated differently. There are also over a dozen types of childhood cancers, and countless subtypes, making it more challenging for researchers to find cures for every child.
It’s also a different scenario when making a diagnosis in a child, officials say.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, as different cancers grow or spread, they cause different signs and symptoms depending on the type of cancer and its size, location and effect on nearby tissues or organs. Cancer can also occur in organs deep within the body. These cancers may not cause signs or symptoms right away and may not become apparent until discovered by a doctor during a routine checkup.
The Society also points out that cancers in children are often difficult to recognize. Parents are often the first to notice that something is wrong with a child. That comes from largely from those everyday observances in your child – any change from their normal behaviour or health that persists or is not easily explained should be checked by the child’s doctor.
Needless to say, there is still a long ways to go. “Despite advances in research, childhood cancer is still the number one non-communicable disease killing children today,” said Neal Rourke, a volunteer with Childhood Cancer International and also part of a new Canadian alliance called the Big Book of Care – a nation-wide coalition of 16 children’s cancer groups that have joined forces and pooled resources to raise awareness, funds and support for children affected by cancer. The Big Book of Care is a Canada-wide partnership of organizations that work to eliminate childhood cancer and support the families and children who are affected by it. “Every child battling cancer has a story, and we are here to share those stories. First, a little bit more about us,” notes the web site.
In honour of Canadian children with cancer, fundraising and awareness initiatives are being organized across Canada during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. It’s time to remember that it’s far from being just an adult disease. To learn more about childhood cancer and the charities that support children and families affected by it, visit www.bigbookofcare.org.