Since 2002, February 15 has been International Childhood Cancer Day. This initiative has three main focuses.
1. Raising awareness of childhood cancer
2. Acknowledging the emotional pain and difficulties faced by children and their families due to this devastating diagnosis
3. Campaigning for equitable access to treatments for childhood cancer
It is a sad truth that many of us are all too aware of childhood cancer in the abstract, but there’s value in learning more about the hard facts behind this illness. Three key things to know are that, with access to the best treatment currently available, most childhood cancer cases are cured. On a less positive note, cancer is also uncommon among children, but obviously this is of no comfort to those directly affected. The major varieties of childhood cancer are blood, brain and nervous system based.
Acknowledging Emotional Pain and Difficulties
Cancer is an isolating and frightening experience, especially when it strikes a child. You may be surprised at the impact which reaching out to children and parents directly affected can have on them. Even a small gesture, when heartfelt and sensitive, can go a long way.
Equitable Access to Treatments
Nowadays, most cancers have effective treatments and management methods. Cancer survival rates, including those in children, have risen significantly in recent times. When it comes to childhood cancer, a certain level of specialisation is called for in treatment. Treatment plans must be devised by paediatric oncologists to be most effective. International Childhood Cancer Day also exists to publicise the existence of such treatments.
This is not the only aspect of childhood cancer treatment which this initiative is particularly focused on. The “International” in International Childhood Cancer Day is important. Between countries, treatment outcomes for children with cancer vary disturbingly. In nations with high GDP per capita, the success rate for treatment can reach 80 per cent. Even for middle-income countries, let alone low-income ones, children’s chances for full recovery can be as low as 20 per cent.
It should be obvious that the drive for equitable access to treatment is a tremendously important part of the Day’s mission. The World Health Organisation’s Global Initiative on Childhood Cancer has a target of 60 per cent survival for children with cancer, wherever in the world they may live.
Today’s awareness-raising mission is very much aligned with the WHO’s objective. The sooner this target is met, and then exceeded, the better, in the fight against this cruel condition.