What is Cancer?

Cells are the basic building blocks of the body. There are many different types of cells and they make up all of the tissues and organs in the body. Within each cell are thousands of genes (also known as genetic material) that act as a command center for the cell. Genes provide instructions for what role the cell will play in the body. Each gene has a unique job to perform either by itself, or in combination with other genes.

Cells divide to make new cells to replace damaged or old cells. As cells duplicate, they pass along copies of their genetic material to the new cells.

The process of cells dividing and passing along genes is usually well controlled, insuring that the right kinds and numbers of cells are present for the different parts of the body to function correctly. The body and the cells can usually recognize when something has changed in a cell and will work to repair or destroy the abnormal cell.

Unfortunately, cells sometimes begin to grow and divide with little or no control. When that happens, they can destroy nearby healthy cells and invade different parts of the body. This is called cancer.

Facts about Children’s Cancer

Each year, approximately 16,000 parents will hear the words “your child has cancer.”  Across all ages, ethnic groups and socio-economics, this disease remains the number one cause of death by disease in children.  Despite major advances – from an overall survival rate of 10 percent just forty years ago to nearly 80 percent today, for many rare cancers, the survival rate is much lower.  Furthermore, the number of diagnosed cases annually has not declined in nearly 20 years.

Facts about Cancer in Children and Adolescents

  • Every day, 36 children are diagnosed with cancer.
  • One child out of five who is diagnosed with cancer dies.
  • Children’s cancer it affects all ethnic, gender and socio-economic groups.
  • The average age of children diagnosed is six.
  • More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.
  • Three out of five who survive children’s cancer suffer late-effects, such as infertility, heart failure and secondary cancers.
  • There are approximately 350,000 adult survivors of children’s cancer in the United States.
    • That equates to 1 in 640 adults ages 18-45.
  • From 2001-2003, the following numbers of children ages 0-19 were diagnosed with cancer in geographic areas of the United States
    • TOTAL                     36,446
      • Northeast        7,676
      • Midwest          9,011
      • South            11,082
      • West               8,677