Hear Sara Bareilles/Cyndi Lauper Mashup “Truly Brave” and Support Childhood Cancer Patients

As part of TODAY’s year long campaign to support worthy causes called Shine a Light,  Today anchor Hoda Kotb has chosen to lift the spirits of children with cancer and raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Hoda knows the struggles with which cancer patients can deal, being a 7-yr breast cancer survivor herself. As she put it:

“Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and as I fought through the scariest period of my life, music was one thing that helped keep the fear at bay. I was very depressed. I was really in the weeds. There was something about music. You put on a song and your mood changes instantly. Music has this way that right when you hear the note, it changes you. It brought me out of some of the darkest holes.

I now know what it feels like to struggle with cancer. But what I can’t fathom, is what it’s like for a little kid to face such a grown-up disease.
When I visit pediatric hospitals, all I want to do is make it better. If music helped me, I thought maybe I could give these kids the gift of that perfect song. A song just for them.”

childhood cancer logoHoda’s idea for a special song for these children, what she called the Truly Brave project, lead to an incredible collaboration between singer/songwriters Cyndi Lauper and Sara Bareilles. They blended their hit songs “True Colors” and “Brave” along with pediatric cancer patients at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to make this very special video:

To donate, visit Crowdrise.com/Hoda.

An Overview of Childhood Cancer

Although cancer in children is rare, it is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States. In 2014, it is estimated that 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 will die of the disease in the United States.

pie_chart_cancer_typesThe most common types of cancer diagnosed in children and adolescents are leukemia, brain and central nervous system tumors, lymphoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, bone cancer, and gonadal (testicular and ovarian) germ cell tumors.

As of January 1, 2010, there were approximately 380,000 survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer (diagnosed at ages 0 to 19 years) alive in the United States. The number of survivors will continue to increase, given that the incidence of childhood cancer has been rising slightly in recent decades and that survival rates overall are improving.

What is the outlook for children with cancer?

The overall outlook for children with cancer has improved greatly over the last half-century. In 1975, just over 50 percent of children diagnosed with cancer before age 20 years survived at least 5 years . In 2004-2010, more than 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer before age 20 years survived at least 5 years.

In addition survival has not been consistentAlthough survival rates for most childhood cancers have improved in recent decades, the improvement has been especially dramatic for a few cancers, particularly acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the most common childhood cancer. Improved treatments introduced beginning in the 1970s raised the 5-year survival rate for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia from less than 10 percent in the 1960s to about 90 percent in 2003-2009. Survival rates for childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma have also increased dramatically, from less than 50 percent in the late 1970s to 85 percent in 2003-2009.

By contrast, survival rates remain very low for some cancer types, for some age groups, and for some cancers within a site. For example, median survival for children with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (a type of brain tumor) is less than 1 year from diagnosis. Among children with Wilms tumor (a type of kidney cancer), older children (those diagnosed between ages 10 and 16 years) have worse 5-year survival rates than younger children. For soft tissue sarcomas, 5-year survival rates among children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years range from 64 percent (rhabdomyosarcoma) to 72 percent (Ewing sarcoma). And 5-year survival rates for central nervous system cancers range from 70 percent (medulloblastoma) to 85 percent (astrocytoma).

What are the possible causes of cancer in children?

The causes of most childhood cancers are not known. About 5 percent of all cancers in children are caused by an inherited mutation (a genetic mutation that can be passed from parents to their children). For example, 25 to 30 percent of cases of retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye that develops mainly in children, are caused by an inherited mutation in a gene called RB1. However, retinoblastoma accounts for only about 3 percent of all cancers in children.  Inherited mutations associated with certain familial syndromes, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Fanconi anemia syndrome, Noonan syndrome, and von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, also increase the risk of childhood cancer.

Genetic mutations that cause cancer can also arise during the development of a fetus in the womb. For example, one in every 100 children is born with a genetic abnormality that increases risk for leukemia, although only one child in 8,000 with that abnormality actually develops leukemia

Most cancers in children, like those in adults, are thought to develop as a result of mutations in genes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and eventually cancer. In adults, these gene mutations are often the result of exposure to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke, asbestos, and ultraviolet radiation from the sun. However, environmental causes of childhood cancer have been difficult to identify, partly because cancer in children is rare, and partly because it is difficult to determine what children might have been exposed to early in their development.

Adolescents and young adults are often diagnosed with different types of cancer than either younger children or older adults. For example, adolescents and young adults are more likely than either younger children or older adults to be diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, and sarcoma. However, the incidence of specific cancer types varies widely across the adolescent and young adult age continuum.

What should survivors of childhood cancer consider after they complete treatment?

Survivors of childhood cancer need follow-up care and enhanced medical surveillance for the rest of their lives because of the risk of complications that can occur many years after they complete treatment for their cancer. Health problems that develop months or years after treatment has ended are known as late effects.

Long-term follow-up analysis of a cohort of survivors of childhood cancer treated between 1970 and 1986 has shown that cancer survivors remain at risk of complications and premature death as they age, with more than half of survivors having experienced a severe or disabling complication or even death by the time they reach age 50 years. It is not known whether children treated in more recent periods will experience similar risks of late complications.

The specific late effects that a person who was treated for childhood cancer might experience depend on the type and location of his or her cancer, the type of treatment he or she received, and patient-related factors, such as age at diagnosis.

Children who were treated for bone cancer, brain tumors, and Hodgkin lymphoma, or who received radiation to their chest, abdomen, or pelvis, have the highest risk of serious late effects from their cancer treatment, including second cancers, joint replacement, hearing loss, and congestive heart failure.

It’s important for childhood cancer survivors to have regular medical follow-up examinations so any health problems that occur can be identified and treated as soon as possible.

Source: National Cancer Institute

To donate, visit Crowdrise.com/Hoda.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel Imas

    September 29, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    The commitment of celebrities to battling certain diseases, while honorable, exposes how much publicity affects allocation and treatment for different diseases. The music video mash-up of Cyndi Lauper ‘s “True Colors” and Sara Bareilles’s “Brave” supporting Hoda Kotb’s fundraiser for pediatric cancer research has, at the time of this post, raised $278,138 for pediatric cancer research. The music video shows adolescent cancer patients joining together in a painting project that raises their spirits. It attempts to inspire viewers to donate money to bring happiness to the lives of children who want to enjoy simple childhood activities like painting, but must deal with the realities of their illness. By putting a face to pediatric cancer, the video clearly tries to draw directly on the emotions of its viewers.
    What’s interesting is the impact that advertising from celebrities has on public opinion of certain diseases. Often times, diseases that generate the most hype aren’t the ones that are impacting the most people, but the ones that celebrities take notice of, are diagnosed with, or touch them emotionally. As the article mentions, pediatric cancer is fairly rare, yet can still earn the support of celebrities who feel an obligation to do their part. This type of celebrity activism clearly extends past diseases like pediatric cancer. For example, the Michael J. Fox Foundation was created by Michael Fox about 15 years ago and, according to their website, has contributed more than $450 million to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Before his involvement and activism in Parkinson’s research, the publicity surrounding it was barely even a fraction of what it is now.
    At a point, the question becomes whether celebrity involvement in battling disease is even about finding a cure or treatment anymore, or whether it has become just another way in which society worships celebrities and everything they touch. This post definitely does its part in trying to educate readers on the issues surrounding pediatric cancer, but for every post like this there are probably another 50 talking about how good the Lauper/Bareilles mash-up is while ignoring the specific problems regarding pediatric cancer. In a sense, a lot of these advertisements may have already given up on educating the public and instead solely chosen to focus on garnering monetary support. Whether or not this is desirable still seems up for debate, but there don’t seem to be a lot of ways to incentivize the general public to educate themselves about diseases. In the short term, this may seem like the most effective solution, at least until there is a more effective way to increase meaningful involvement in stopping these chronic illnesses.

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