In just 24-48 hours, the whole world will go pink for breast cancer, and statistically, any child who received radiation to the chest has a 60% chance to increase in being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Specific research on childhood cancers are so important for many reasons, but some of the top ones include:
1. Childhood cancer is the number one cause of death by disease in children.
2. There are over 200 types of childhood cancer and they consistently get less than 4% of all researching funding.
3. Many children who do complete their sessions and grow up will develop secondary cancers due to the toxicity of treatment to growing cells during childhood.
The long term effects of childhood cancer are staggering when looking at studies. One out of five children who are diagnosed with childhood cancer still die within five years of diagnosis, and those who do survive can have tragic long-term effects.
Research is discovering children who receive genetic testing on their tumors are found to have enhanced markers that show they are at increased risk for other adult cancers later in life. For example, Tara Henderson, MD, MPH and collaborators did a study on female cancer survivors who had been diagnosed with cancer between 1970 and 1986. While the research showed that childhood cancer survivors had only a slightly higher chance of dying than the control group, they were five times more likely to die as a result of other diseases such as secondary cancers and lung diseases (Ayshford, 2019).
Not only are secondary cancers a large possibility for many childhood cancer survivors, things like fertility can be affected. Because of this, parents are faced to make some possibly devastating decisions for their children that can affect them in the long-term. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause short or long term effects that may induce menopause or cause the brain to communicate with reproductive systems that will make it nearly impossible for these children to bear children in their adulthood. Parents are tasked with answering questions about embryo freezing, egg freezing, sperm freezing and more during an already difficult period.
While research is wanted and needed because there is so little, it’s also important for childhood cancer to receive more research funding so researchers can learn how to prevent long term effects such as the ones Henderson and collaborators found.
What can you do about it? Write to your representatives in Congress and tell them you want more funding and research to be dedicated to childhood cancer. You can also research foundations like the Swifty Foundation and donate so they can continue to research. If representatives won’t action, we as a people must. Children’s lives depend on it.
Ayshford,E. (2019). Understanding risks for childhood cancer survivors.