Childhood Cancer Awareness Month 2022

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month 2022

What You Need to Know; Myths or Facts!
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Photo by Tara Winstead:

Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children in the U.S. September is dedicated to National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, an initiative started by President Obama in 2012. It’s a time to educate the nation on pediatric cancer, support families dealing with childhood cancer, and inspire funding for pediatric cancer research and funding for families currently being overlooked during their cancer treatment and journey. What we’ve learned about the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and well-being of patients with pediatric cancer over the last two decades has dramatically evolved with a clearer understanding of causes and treatment improvements for the future. This blog is dedicated to progress in pediatric cancer support and debunking common myths and misconceptions about childhood cancer.

Predictable or Preventable?

Child sitting on bench waiting

Many parents wonder if they did something to cause their child’s cancer diagnosis.

  • Did I feed them the wrong foods?
  • Expose them to an unsafe environment?
  • Is it genetic?

It’s understandable to feel a sense of guilt or rack your brain contemplating if you could have prevented it. As a parent, you might find yourself researching the causes of cancer and stumble upon a few studies that suggest a reason based on a small data set. It’s important to remember that when looking for statistics, possibilities, and answers, they are from reputable resources—sample size matters when looking at data. So if you read somewhere that eating too many “potato chips,” as an exaggerated example, can predispose your child to leukemia, be sure that you find those same results from multiple studies within a large population. The good news is that potato chips have no connection to causing cancer. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society and the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, lifestyle factors usually take many years to influence cancer risk, and they are not thought to play much of a role in childhood cancers. Possible radiation and parental exposure from smoking have been linked in some studies to increase the risk of cancer in children. However, more data needs to be generated to make a concrete conclusion. Adults may have behaviors that put them at a higher risk for cancer, such as smoking or eating an unhealthy diet. But children are too young for unhealthy habits to increase their cancer risk.

Answers Remain a Medical Enigma

Researchers continue to investigate the causes of childhood cancer, but the exact answer remains a medical enigma. Some studies suggest a strong family history of cancer may increase a child’s risk, but these genes are extremely rare. Childhood cancers are almost always caused by a DNA mutation that is not inherited but happens randomly. Children with random DNA mutations can’t pass them on to their children in the future. To date, researchers have looked and continue to look at every possible cause of childhood cancer – from what the mother’s diet was during pregnancy to the parents’ jobs to where they live. Unfortunately, they can’t come up with a finite reason why some children get cancer, and others do not. Parents need to understand this isn’t their fault, the child’s fault, or anybody’s fault.

6 Pediatric Cancer Myths

There are several myths surrounding childhood cancer research and widespread disease characteristics, and it’s understandable, especially if you are waiting for a cure, treatment, or making a substantial donation. You want to know how research works, how fast it’s moving, and how much funding is needed to get it moving forward. If cancer is the first critical disease in your family, you may not know how it differs from the common cold. Let’s debunk some of these myths so you can better understand the progress from the cancer research standpoint.

Child with cancer smiling while holding stuffed animalsMyth #1: There’s just one “cure” for childhood cancer.

The truth: Specific kinds of therapies, like cell, gene, and immunotherapy, could unlock better treatments for many different types of cancers, but treatment will always be individualized from one disease to another and from one patient to another.

Myth #2: Childhood cancer is rare, and research doesn’t need as much funding.

The truth: There are so many kinds of childhood cancers, almost all considered ‘rare,’ however, childhood cancer is a widespread, prevalent problem. Did you know that childhood cancer research funding accounts for just 4% of all federal funding for cancer research? Therefore, childhood cancer researchers rely on the generosity of donors to fund their work.

Young patient standing in hallway

Myth #3: Childhood cancer is the same as adult cancer.

The truth: Many childhood cancers result from cell DNA changes that happen when the child is very young, sometimes even before birth. This means childhood cancers can’t be prevented by limiting environmental risk factors like many adult cancers. Funding researchers studying childhood cancer is critical so we can learn more about causes and create treatments that might prevent relapse, specifically in children. So every dollar helps!

Myth #4: Childhood cancer research is prolonged, and little progress has been made.

The truth: New discoveries about childhood cancer and treatments used to fight it are constantly being evaluated by research experts worldwide. Childhood cancers, like osteosarcoma, have seen more meaningful advances in research in the past five years than in the previous 30 years. Researchers can make advancements more quickly when they have adequate funding.

Myth #5: Cancer is contagious and can spread like the flu.

The truth is: Cancer is not contagious and cannot spread from one child to another. But, kids with cancer are usually discouraged from going to crowded places because their immunity is low, making them vulnerable to infections. Cancer is nothing like the flu.

Myth #6: Childhood cancer is a death sentence for sure.

The truth: Most childhood cancers are curable. For example, childhood leukemia’s three-year overall survival rate is 89%. Successful treatment depends on essential factors such as receiving current standard therapy, a positive outlook, and an abundance of hope and faith to overcome cancer.

How Can You Help?

You may be wondering how you can help kids with cancer. While donations always help, there are many more ways to give and lend your support, especially during this particular month. Here are a few ways to participate in National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Choose any that resonates with you and show support for young people and their families fighting this disease.

Gold ribbon for National Childhood Cancer Awareness1. Wear gold

The symbol for childhood cancer awareness is the gold ribbon. Adding a gold ribbon to your outfit shows your support for the cause and encourages others to do the same. You’ll create a chain reaction that boosts awareness and inspires social action in your community.

2. Update your profile picture

We encourage people to apply a gold ribbon or filter to their profile photos on social media. This small symbol helps advocate and promote the need for increased funding for pediatric cancer research.

Young cancer patient smiling

3. Shave your hair in solidarity

This might be a surprising way to show your support, but its impact is huge. Kids facing cancer usually choose to shave their heads to feel physically uniform as they undergo treatments that cause hair loss. This is why shaving your head is a powerful symbol of solidarity, showing children going through treatment that they’re not alone. You might even consider organizing a head-shaving party in your community and turning it into a fundraiser..

4. Share your story- Your child’s cancer story might inspire others to action, giving people a glimpse of what it’s like to face aggressive treatments, emotional setbacks, and an uncertain future. Now almost every person, young and old, are constantly using digital services for information; post your story loud and clear on any social media site to express your reality and spread awareness. When we raise our voices, others are encouraged to raise theirs.   

5. Volunteer your time

Nonprofits who help families with children battle cancer will put your money to good use. Donating time to Here to Serve helps families in need.

By volunteering hands-on, you will feel the direct impact of your support during childhood cancer month. Nonprofits, like Here to Serve, can always use an extra hand or benefit from services you and/or your employer can provide.

Find volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood or with us. We can support families navigating a pediatric cancer diagnosis because of our dedicated volunteers. Support our mission and help families in need!

As always, Here to Serve is here to help provide and connect families to resources they may be unable to find. Please contact us if you or someone you know needs assistance as they navigate a cancer diagnosis. We’ll do our very best to get the help and support you need.

From our team at Here to Serve, we wish you health and perseverance during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month!

Keep Strong and Advocate On!

By Sameera Rangwala, M.S., M.P.H

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provides words of support to the cancer community.

All content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.