Too Many Young Cancer Patients Fall Into The "Teen Gap"

National Childhood Cancer Foundation
Monday, 20 January 2003

When should a teenager be treated like a child? When that teenager is diagnosed with cancer, says the National Childhood Cancer Foundation (NCCF).

Teens with cancer have the best chance of full recovery if they are treated at childhood cancer research and treatment centers. There they have access to coordinated care by a team of childhood cancer specialists. However, a recent study indicates that children aged 15 through 19 are not often treated by pediatric oncology experts. As a result, these older teens have a lower cure rate than teens treated by experts in childhood cancer.

Adolescents with testicular cancer, ovarian cancer, or melanoma should be treated on protocols designed for adults the age group most affected by such cancers.

But teenagers and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL,) lymphoma, bone tumors and many other malignancies have a better survival rate when their disease is managed on intensive treatment programs such as those developed by the Children's Oncology Group.

Over 75% of cancer patients ages 15 through 19 may not be benefiting from the most effective therapies available for treating their cancer. The Foundation has labeled this problem the "Teen Gap," because older teens often refuse to keep seeing their "baby doctor," a pediatrician. Therefore, if they are diagnosed with cancer they may not be referred to the childhood cancer centers, which have achieved the highest cure rates by participating in national clinical trials of the newest cancer treatments.

According to pediatric oncologist G. Denman Hammond, M.D., Founder of NCCF, this problem is compounded by the fact that the incidence of cancer is increasing at a faster rate in young adults than in younger or older patients. The incidence of cancer in the 15 - 19 year-old age group is equal to that of those from birth to age four, and almost double the incidence in children ages 5 - 14.

The Foundation supports the more than 235 childhood cancer research and treatment centers of the Children's Oncology Group throughout North America. They urge those who wish to show support for children with cancer to wear a golden ribbon on their lapel. Just as the red and pink ribbons promote AIDS and breast cancer research, the gold ribbon demonstrates an interest in increased research into new cures for infants, toddlers, children, teenagers, and young adults with cancer. To obtain a free lapel pin, contact the National Childhood Cancer Foundation (NCCF) at (800) 458-6223.

For more information, or to contact National Childhood Cancer Foundation, see their website at: www.nccf.org

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