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One in five Brits have known a child who has suffered with cancer

Almost 18 per cent of the UK population have known a child who has suffered with cancer, and more than one in 10 have known a child who has died from the disease.

13 September 2019

A study of 2,000 UK adults found 13 per cent of respondents have known a child with leukaemia – the most common form of childhood cancer. Yet shockingly, 80 per cent of Brits are unaware just how prevalent childhood cancer is in the UK – with 50% not even able to hazard a guess, and only twelve per cent identifying the correct answer.

Despite cancer being the most common cause of death in children in the UK, more than ninety per cent of respondents were also unaware how many children lose their lives to cancer each year – with just nine per cent identifying the correct answer.

The research was commissioned by national charity Children with Cancer UK to mark this year’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

The study also found that three in 10 UK adults are unaware of the long-term side effects of childhood cancer.

  • Fifty-six per cent did not know suffering from childhood cancer could lead to secondary cancer later in life
  • Fifty-four per cent did not realise childhood cancer could cause infertility later in life
  • Sixty-two per cent did not know suffering from cancer at a young age could cause growth impairment
  • Seventy per cent did not realise cancer treatment could cause behavioural issues
  • Fifty-three per cent were unaware of the potential impact of childhood cancer treatment on the mental health and wellbeing of children.

Children with Cancer UK Acting CEO Mark Brider said:

Each year in the UK, about 4,500 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer, with approximately 250 sadly losing their lives to the disease. Each September Childhood Cancer Awareness Month helps to highlight the impact of cancer on young people and their families. This, in turn, helps us to support more children, improve the lives of young cancer patients and their families and continue to fund lifesaving childhood cancer research in the hope that one day no child will die from the disease.

Almost 30 per cent of people surveyed in the research, conducted by OnePoll.com, also said they thought more than 10 per cent of cancer research funding would be allocated to childhood cancer research. However, in reality only three per cent of funding for cancer research goes towards researching paediatric cancers.

Mark Brider added:

Childhood cancers are very different to those found in adults, but all too often doctors have to rely upon treatments designed for adults, not children. This can leave children facing lifelong health problems as their small bodies struggle to cope with toxic medicines. This makes childhood cancer research vital to improving survival rates as well as quality of survival.

With the help of our supporters, Children with Cancer UK currently fund more than 60 research projects across the UK, however, more funding is needed to drive breakthroughs and provide ongoing support to children and families facing cancer diagnosis and treatment.

CASE STUDY

Every year 4,500 children are diagnosed with cancer in the UK. Blue was just two years old when he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), a rare and aggressive blood cancer with a one in four survival rate.

As a result of his AML, Blue missed a lot of schooling, and his family didn’t think he’d make it. He was deemed a “failure to thrive”, meaning he wouldn’t eat, failed to gain weight and was treated in isolation. In our video of Blue’s story, his mum, Francesca, reflects on five years of “absolute hell”.

However, thanks to the love and support of Blue’s family, friends, doctors, nurses, consultants and researchers, he slowly started to regain his strength.

It was painful and just destroys your body, recounts Blue, now 10 years old. It was scary, but at the same time I felt like I had people beside me helping me fight off the cancer, and those people were my doctors, my nurses, my mum, my nan, my grandad and the rest of my family.

At Children with Cancer UK, we fund ground-breaking research to help save the lives of children with cancer and keep their families together. Through our welfare projects we also support the family members who are fighting childhood cancer alongside their loved one.

Blue was declared cancer free at seven years old on 10th May 2017, which his mum, Francesca, describes as a miracle. Francesca remembers vividly standing with her family in the Royal Marsden Hospital, witnessing the moment where Blue finally got to ring the End of Treatment Bell to commemorate being declared cancer-free. Blue’s consultant, Dr. Michael Potter, was also there to join in this momentous and joyous occasion.

I am very, very proud of Blue today, says Francesca, but I am also very thankful to everyone who was involved in our journey. It was a very, very long, horrendous journey.

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the ramifications are not only felt by that child, but by those around them as well. Blue’s story is a reminder that thanks to the work of doctors, nurses and researchers around the world and the support of family, friends and loved ones, a child diagnosed with cancer never has to feel like they are going through it alone.

Blue offers wise words for other children diagnosed with cancer:

Make sure cancer doesn’t bring you down, and that you always have a smile, and you always have a laugh.

This is where those around us can truly make a difference.

By raising awareness of childhood cancer, we can protect more children and improve the lives of young cancer patients – today and for future generations. We can also support the families and loved ones of young patients, so that they are strong enough to take on the fight against childhood cancer and inspire strength where it is most needed.