These days, there seems to be a month or a day for everything, but September is different!
Every September, we renew our fight during National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, 2013. In Fort Worth, Mayor Betsy Price has focused special attention on our community’s commitment to improving treatment, advancing research and one day finding a cure for the thousands of children fighting this disease every year. You may notice special ribbons throughout downtown as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Day.
By now, you may be thinking, “Do we really need to be made aware of cancer?”
Unfortunately, the answer is yes because there’s simply not the awareness of childhood cancer that there needs to be in our community and throughout the nation.
Many of you reading this on a Cook Children’s blog are much more aware of childhood cancer than most. You would be surprised at the number of people who aren’t even aware that children can have cancer.
We have to make sure the general community is aware of how much childhood cancer exists in this country. It is the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 15 in this country.
Did you know that 40 to 45 kids a day are diagnosed with cancer each day? That’s almost 12,000 kids a year in the U.S. In this country alone, seven kids will die because of cancer every day. So 2,100 children lose their lives to some form of childhood cancer yearly. Precious, precious lives lost way too soon.
It’s hard for a lot of people in the general population to grasp the impact of childhood cancer if they haven’t been directly impacted. Everyone understands breast cancer or colon cancer. Childhood cancers are orphan diseases, with complicated names like neuroblastoma, Ewing sarcoma, retinoblastoma or rhabdyomyosarcoma. And let’s face it, most people simply don’t want to think about children getting very ill.
Cancer is a difficult fight, but I don’t want to leave you with the thought that there’s not hope. In fact, there’s an abundance of it. I see it every day in the halls of Cook Children’s. It’s a wonderful place.
Many, many childhood cancers are very treatable and because of what we’ve already done in the area of research, including clinical trials and basic science cancer research, we’ve raised the overall rate for childhood cancer survival from an average of 50 percent to 85 percent. And that’s just over the last 30 years.
During this time of awareness, I want to make sure you know how you can make a difference and how you can help. For one thing, pediatric cancer research is severely underfunded in this country. If you look at the $5.1 billion of cancer research funds in this country, childhood cancer research only receives about 5 percent of those funds. When we look at clinical trials that are developed, only about 10 percent of clinical trials developed in this country are specifically for childhood cancer. Please take time to pick up the phone and call, your local congressman or senator and ask them to increase that funding.
You can make a huge difference today by giving to Cook Children’s. We are a non-profit facility and our Hematology and Oncology program would greatly benefit from your help. To donate, go to www.cookchildrens.org/giving and designate your gift to Hematology Oncology in the gift information field labeled “My gift is restricted to …”
During an awareness month, we can really focus our energy, love and support for our physicians, nurses, all the caregivers and most importantly, the families and the courageous patients going through a childhood cancer experience. But it doesn’t have to be just today or this month. We appreciate all of your support throughout the year.
Gretchen Eames, M.D., MPH, is the medical director of the Hematology and Oncology program at Cook Children’s Health Care System.