Many people “simply do not know that children get cancer”, research by a cancer charity has found.
The lack of public awareness of the “devastating” impact that childhood cancer has on families across the UK is evident in a survey by CLIC Sargent, a cancer charity for children and young people, and their families.
While 1,600 children, aged up to 15, are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK, 34% of people underestimated this number, and 26% did not know.
The survey of 2,128 adults found 32% underestimated the 60 mile round trip many families have to travel on average, often many days a week, for children to receive treatment for cancer at a specialist hospital, while 22% did not know.
Lorraine Clifton, CLIC Sargent’s chief executive, said: “It’s clear from the results of this survey that many people simply do not know that children get cancer and that, though childhood cancer is thankfully rare, a child’s cancer diagnosis and the often long cancer treatment can have a devastating impact on children and their families.
“At CLIC Sargent we know just how overwhelming a child’s cancer diagnosis can be - and we support families through the often gruelling treatment, which can last up to three years.
“Cancer is a frightening experience and the emotional, practical and financial implications are intensely challenging for the whole family.”
The survey also found 34% thought that the average amount of extra money a year families have to spend to cope with the extra costs of childhood cancer was less than the actual figure of £4,400.
Fourty one per cent identified that a third of children with cancer experience bullying when they return to school - but 19% believed that this could not be the case.
Meanwhile, 89% of people agreed that families affected by cancer should have access to emotional support from trained professionals throughout their child’s treatment, 85% agreed that affected families should have access to financial support throughout and 79% agreed that both emotional and financial support should be available to families after treatment ends, for as long as the child or family need it.
The survey is published to mark the start of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Ms Clifton added: “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness of the impact of childhood cancer, and to ask people to support CLIC Sargent’s work helping young cancer patients and their families.
“We are calling on people to wear a gold ribbon throughout September to show they are standing by the thousands of families coping with the devastating impact of a cancer diagnosis and its treatment, and to make a donation to help us continue our work.”