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6 Facts About Childhood Cancer

Published on September 23, 2019

6 Facts About Childhood Cancer

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM). Here are 6 facts you may not know about childhood cancer.

1. 15,780 children are diagnosed with cancer annually in the U.S. 

Every day in the United States, on average, 43 families hear the words, “Your child has cancer.” At any given time, across the United States, there are approximately 40,000 children on active treatment for childhood cancer. While these numbers may seem abstract, in all likelihood there is a child in your community-fighting childhood cancer. There’s nothing abstract about that. 

2. The average age of a childhood cancer diagnosis is 6 years old. 

Think about the six-year-olds you know. What are they doing? They are going to school and learning to read. They are playing with friends and going to birthday parties. No six-year-old — or child of any age — should be worried about hospital stays, surgeries, and medications that often make you feel worse, not better. Yet that is the grim reality for children fighting childhood cancer.  

3. 80% of childhood cancer patients are diagnosed in a late stage of the disease.

Unlike many types of adult cancers, there are no recommended screenings for childhood cancer to catch it early. Most children are diagnosed with childhood cancer only after the appearance of symptoms. Unfortunately, this means that most children are diagnosed after the disease has spread, making the disease more difficult to treat and require more intensive — and therefore more toxic — treatments.

4. Childhood cancer diagnoses have increased by 24% over the last 40 years. 

That’s right: since the 1970s, the “incident rate” of childhood cancer diagnoses has been slowly rising. On average, there’s been a 0.6% increase in the incidence of childhood cancer per year. 0.6% may not sound like much, but over time, it translates into a pretty big number: a 24% increase in overall incidence rates over the last 40 years. 

5. Two-thirds of childhood cancer patients will suffer chronic health problems. 

Outcomes for many types of childhood cancer have improved over the past several decades. Unfortunately, the standard treatment options — chemotherapy and radiation therapy — remain highly toxic, especially to the rapidly growing and developing bodies of children and adolescents. So while there are more childhood cancer survivors than ever before, ⅔ of those survivors will live with long-term health concerns due to treatment that was meant to save their lives, and of those, one-quarter will face conditions that are severe and even life-threatening.

6. In 2 decades, only four new drugs have been approved by the FDA specifically for childhood cancer. 

In the words of ACCO CEO Ruth Hoffman: “It is mind-boggling and disturbing to know that a child diagnosed with AML [acute myelogenous leukemia] today will be treated pretty much the same way that my daughter was 32 years ago.” If outcomes for children with cancer are to continue to improve, and if we want childhood cancer survivors to live without a lifetime of health problems, it is critical that we push relentlessly for new and less toxic treatment options specifically for childhood cancer.


Posted by American Childhood Cancer Organization

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