by Doug Ulman
This week is special to me. I was diagnosed as a young adult and it means a lot that there is a week to recognize this incredibly underserved population. That’s right, I said underserved. Often we think of underserved populations as those with significant socioeconomic challenges or other obstacles that force them to face odds unlike the general population. But I believe firmly that anyone who is not benefiting from what we know, is actually underserved. Any group or subset of our society that is not treated equally, that is not realizing the same gains or advances, and not dealt with fairly can be underserved.
This week aims to recognize the unique challenges and needs of this population and I am proud to celebrate while remaining determined to positively impact this population.
When colleagues and friends of the LAF presented staggering data to us several years ago that showed no virtually no improvement in survival for those between the ages of 18-40 (and actually some negative impact in certain ages) over the last 30 years it was eerily apparent that this was an underserved population. When we presented the date to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and asked them to investigate this further with us, we told them this population had been marginalized. Let me be clear. For some in this age range, the chance of surviving their cancer diagnosis five years is lower today than it was in 1975. Yes, lower. How can this be? I asked myself the same thing.
Young adults happen to be the most uninsured and underinsured populations in our nation. They tend to be diagnosed late. Their tends to be an invincibility among this group as well as a very low level of clinical suspicion among providers. There are also biologic differences which LAF is now attacking through unique research efforts so that we can understand what the biologic differences may be.
When we partnered with the NCI in a historic government and non-profit partnership to produce a strategic plan for reversing this trend we discovered how truly underserved this population is.
Think for a minute about this, there are instances today where survival rates for someone who is 10 years old and someone who is 30 years old and who are both diagnosed with the exact same type of cancer have a different survival rate of more than 50%. In other words, for some types of cancer the survival rate for a 10 year old is 90% and it is less than 40% for a 30 year old. That is unacceptable.
We are pedaling hard to better understand the issues that contribute to this and ultimately solve the problem. This is a personal issue for me. I am passionate about it and this week reminds me that we have a long way to go, but we will get there and having an awareness week truly does help. It shines a light. And it forces people to acknowledge and remember.