Irene was 20 years old when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. She had to leave school, her three-year-old son, and her entire life was put on hold.
For a year, she went through chemotherapy, numerous surgeries, and even had an above knee amputation after her immune system collapsed as a result of her treatment.
Now, at 22, she’s adapting to every day life while attending school, taking care of her son, and spreading awareness about the importance of funding for research and development for pediatric cancer.
She’s not wrong to, either: the National Cancer Institute funds 3.8% of research for pediatric cancer. Adult cancer research and development earns about 96% of funding.
Pharmaceutical companies comprise about 60% of funding for adult drugs, says Kids V. Cancer.
Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death in children, while the American Cancer Society estimates that 15,780 children were diagnosed last year and out of that, 1,960 died.
According to Kids V. Cancer, about 25% of children who are diagnosed do not survive.
The main reason this happens is because treatments are extremely outdated. It is not the cancer that children are dying of, but the treatments. Compared to other types, pediatric cancer has not had nearly as much research done and does not have safe, effective treatments that exist.
Breast cancer treatments got 4 new drugs that were passed by the Food & Drug Administration just this year. The FDA has approved 2 drugs for pediatric cancer in the past 20.
Pharmaceutical companies lack funding to start new research for drugs for pediatric cancer and instead are forced to use outdated treatments and give children “hand-me-down” drugs used from adult treatments.
This is the big problem: those drugs have different effects on children than they do on adults. The results are not the same, as many childhood cancer survivors are forced to deal with excruciatingly painful chemotherapies and difficult lifelong effects.
Many survivors end up dying or getting very sick from “secondary cancers”, which are actual cancers that the original treatments cause, such as heart damage, infertility, paralysis, liver damage, nerve damage, and more.
For example, the radiation from bone cancer treatment could potentially cause Osteosarcoma, which is a cancerous tumor in the bone.
Funding is the main and most important way to be sure that research and development can continue for pediatric cancer.
The more that people donate, there won’t be such a huge difference in numbers between funding for children and adults.
Treatments may become easier, fewer children will die, and adolescents won’t suffer as many lifelong health complications.
To commemorate National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month this September, consider donating. Donate through websites, phone calls to trusted organizations, fundraising and attending events, donating belongings, and even shaving or cutting your hair. Payroll deductions are also an option in many work places.
A few trusted organizations include American Childhood Cancer Organization, American Cancer Society, Children’s Cancer Research Fund, Pediatric Cancer Foundation, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Also check out Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and their list of 30 ways to help raise awareness and funds throughout the month — like skydiving to benefit the cause.
If you can’t donate, then spread awareness. Spread awareness through educating people about the importance of funding research for treatments for cancer. You can also #ShowYourGold on social media.