September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know in the United States alone, over 15,000 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer EVERY YEAR. Of those, one quarter will not survive their disease. (For more Childhood Cancer facts see www.alexslemonade.org/childhood-cancer-facts)
Yes, childhood cancer is fairly rare. But for 15,000 families in the United States EVERY YEAR, it is a life changing, and at times life threatening event. It’s time to start paying more attention to the special needs of children with cancer.
Children are not just little adults. They often develop different cancers than adults. Cancer treatments do not necessarily work the same way in children as they do adults. Also, children who receive cancer treatment have a lifetime of long term side effects that will need special management. These can include changes in growth and development, loss of fertility, cognitive/behavioral changes, learning problems, heart and lung problems and secondary cancers.
According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, the goal of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is “to put a spotlight on the types of cancer that largely affect children, survivorship issues…and to help raise funds for research and family support.”
What else can you do to help focus the spotlight on childhood cancers, not just this month, but every month?
- Get informed: In conjunction with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, OncoLink is proud to announce the launch of our new section, “OncoLink Jr.” Cancer experts from the OncoLink team and volunteer writers who are pediatric medical providers have worked together to develop and refine pediatric cancer education materials that focus on:
- Information about pediatric cancer
- Managing practical, emotional and developmental concerns
- Managing side effects
- Resources for pediatric cancer support
- Spread the word: Use social media (Facebook) and tell a friend (or 400 of them!) that you support childhood cancer awareness.
- Advocate for increased research and supportive care funding for families coping with childhood cancers. Call your congressmen. Sign petitions. Get involved with advocacy arms of established cancer cancer service organizations like Alex’s Lemonade Stand, The National Children’s Cancer Society, The American Cancer Society or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
- Help a local family in need: prepare a meal, drive a sibling to soccer practice, hang out with mom and dad while their child gets treatment, donate banked sick time (if your employer allows you to do this), babysit—the possibilities are endless.
- Go Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness: use the hashtag #gogold and highlight your support by using twibbon.com/support/gogold-for-childhood-cancer
On a personal note, over the past 18 months, I’ve visited with many families in the radiation oncology department at Penn Medicine (with my therapy dog Finn). Thank you. To all of you. You are some of the bravest, honest, daring, loving, strong and smart families I have been honored to meet. You have left a huge impact on me, and my work as an oncology social worker and education specialist for Oncolink. When I wrote some of the content in OncoLink Jr., you all were my inspiration and motivation. Thank you!