Weekly Feature

2017-09-14 / Editorials

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Bee Editorial

Cancer. It’s a scary six-letter word that can inflict fear in the hearts of those it attacks. It does not discriminate and can ravage the bodies of the smallest people, snuffing out their lights before they ever get a chance to truly shine. Each day, 42 children will be diagnosed with cancer and will prepare to fight for their lives.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This is an opportunity to tell people about the tiniest humans and their fight for a life that has barely begun. It’s also one of the most overlooked forms of cancer, considered somewhat of a rare occurrence. In 2017, the National Cancer Institute estimated that 10,270 children were diagnosed with cancer, making up less than 1 percent of all cancer diagnoses. Around 1,190 are expected to die from the disease. Cancer in children is even more unfair, as it is often the result of DNA changes in the cells and not environmental or lifestyle factors. It’s somewhat easier to make sense of lung cancer when the person impacted has smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years. Childhood cancer never makes sense.

There is some good news, though: Because of major advancements in treatment, more than 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer will survive for more than five years. Compare that to the 1970s, when the survival rate was around 58 percent.

We are lucky to have Roswell Park Cancer Institute right here in Western New York as a resource for children battling cancer. The Katherine, Anne & Donna Gioia Pediatric Hematology Oncology Center, which opened its doors to the public on Sept. 7, will allow children to receive outpatient treatment in one centralized location. There is also Courage of Carly Fund, formerly known as Carly’s Club, an organization that raises money for programs that support children with cancer.

Despite all this, childhood cancer is seriously underfunded. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation estimates only 4 percent of U.S. federal funding is dedicated solely to pediatric cancer research. Pharmaceutical companies, which fund about 60 percent of drug development for cancer in adults, aren’t even willing to fund drugs to treat pediatric cancer because it’s not profitable.

So how can you help? Start small. Gold is the official color of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so sport gold to show you care.

You can also visit the American Childhood Cancer Organization at www.acco.org and find out how to start a fundraiser or donate to the cause.

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