Though cancer is a disease that affects all ages, pediatric cancer is particularly hard to grapple with. Often, childhood cancers are difficult to detect and are often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Sadly, the children that do get treatment don’t always beat the disease. Today, cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death among youths under the age of 15. In recent decades researchers have increasingly turned their attention to battling pediatric cancers hoping to change the current statistics.
Some Key Statistics
The American Cancer Society estimates that during 2016 alone, some 10,380 American youngsters under the age of 15 will receive a cancer diagnosis. This group represents fewer than 1% of all cancer patients in the United States. Yet childhood cancers present a pernicious threat because these diseases strike during a formative period of life, which may pose lifelong health issues later in adulthood. Few conditions generate so much terror in parents.
Indeed, around the globe every month, childhood cancers cause an estimated 6,667 deaths. Fortunately, oncologists have made advances in combating these diseases in recent decades. Researchers evaluate each type of childhood cancer individually to assess progress. While generalizing about this broad category of diseases proves misleading, the National Cancer Institute reports survival rates for many types of childhood cancer have improved significantly over the course of the past 50 years. For instance, the survival rate for non-Hodgkin Lymphoma rose to an estimated 85% during the period between 2003 and 2009. At the beginning of 2010, the U.S. population included some 380,000 childhood cancer survivors, an impressive figure.
Potentially Devastating Financial Impacts
Evaluating all cancer patients in the USA, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality discovered a total direct medical cost of $88.7 billion in 2011 alone. The affected Americans spent roughly half of this sum on outpatient expenses, 35% on in-patient costs, and 11% on prescription drugs. The average cost of treating a case of childhood cancer now stands at $500,000, with parents paying an average out-of-pocket bill of $35,000.
Childhood cancer imposes significant financial costs on both the health care system and the families of individual patients. Even with insurance coverage, households still sometimes face daunting expenses associated with deductible items and experimental treatments. The direct costs also do not encompass the treatment of psychological issues which frequently afflict family members in this situation. The American Psychological Association reports families usually experience a high stress burden in conjunction with a childhood cancer diagnosis.
Allocating Additional Funding
The high priority placed upon combating childhood cancers emerges from one statistic: while these diseases afflict fewer than 1 out of every 100 cancer patients in the United States, as a group they receive 4% of federal cancer research funding, more than many other types of cancers. Yet arguably, by creating morbidity and mortality in such a young population, this category of diseases also costs society more.
Childhood cancers produce disproportionate harm. Progress in this field yields high rewards! In this respect, allocating more funding to the fight against childhood cancer represents a smart investment of research dollars.