Only 4% of the National Cancer Institute's funding is allocated specifically to Pediatric oncology and children with cancer and their families are suffering because of it.
What causes childhood cancer?
The causes of cancer in children are not completely known, however, about 5 percent of cancer in children are caused by an inherited genetic mutation passed from the parents.
In adults, cancer-causing mutations are thought to result from aging and long-term exposure to carcinogens. Despite this, identifying environmental causes of childhood cancer has been challenging, partly due to the rarity of childhood cancer and the difficulty of determining exactly what children have been exposed to so early in their development.
In the early years of childhood, during which the body is actively developing and growing, genetic changes occur in different cells of the body. Cited from the National Cancer Institute, "The extent to which these changes reflect environmental exposures is unclear."
The devastating effects of underfunded treatment
Because of the lack of funding, children with cancer do not have the same amount of treatment options as the general adult population. The same treatments used on adults are also commonly used on children.
There have only been 4 drugs designed specifically for children since 1980. That means a child diagnosed this year may be given the same treatment protocol as a child diagnosed in 1980.
There have been very little advancements.
Childhood cancer survivors experience a wide range of side effects and late effects including stunted growth and development, cognitive function, cardiovascular problems and reproductive problems.
Chemotherapy suppresses the immune system of the child making them susceptible to infections and illnesses that their bodies have a harder time fighting vs somebody with a strong immune system.
Children treated for cancer with chemotherapy or radiation are at an increased risk of developing secondary cancers.
Disease relapses in childhood cancer survivors are common due to treatment usually having to be one size fits all, leading children battling the disease 2 or 3 times throughout their lives, sometimes even more.
With every reoccurrence, the disease mortality rate increases as do the risks of serious and sometimes deadly complications from treatment.
Because of this, children often suffer from severe anxiety about the possibility of disease reoccurrence.
DIPG, tragic and horrendous proof of lack of funding.
Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG is a highly malignant brain tumor of the pontine area of the brain stem which controls the most essential functions of life such as breathing, swallowing, balance and facial expression.
Overtime due to the growth of this cancer, the patient loses all of these functions while continuing to maintain awareness of what is happening around them.
DIPG is a cancer that is exclusively found only in children and there is no known cure and cannot be surgically removed due to the location it presents in.
As of today, there is no effective treatment or chance of survival for DIPG.
Only 10% of children with DIPG survive 2 years after diagnosis, and fewer than 1% survive for five years.
How can I help?
Research projects for pediatric cancer treatment, such as St. Baldrick's, have to rely mostly on independent charities dedicated to supplying money they fundraise solely to pediatric cancer research.
People can help by fundraising and donating money to charities, such as Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation and St. Baldrick's Foundation, that provide funding exclusively towards pediatric cancer research, writing to congress and spreading the word about the reality of pediatric cancer is also beneficial.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2022 Mia Hensley