Posted on Tuesday 7 February 2023

in News

“Our Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan is ambitious, but it should be, because children and young people diagnosed with cancer deserve the same chances as everybody else”

Helen Gravestock, Director – Policy, Influencing and Voice at Young Lives vs Cancer on why a bespoke Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan is so needed.

You might have heard myself, and others from Young Lives vs Cancer or partner charities asking UK governments “but what about young cancer patients?”. Well, there’s a very good reason for this, and even more so right now…

It was just a year ago that the government declared a “national war on cancer” with their 10 Year Cancer Plan, but in recent weeks, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced the government is instead going to develop a “Major Conditions Strategy” which includes cancer and mental health, alongside a long list of other, largely adult focused, diseases and conditions. It’s disappointing to see the promised, and much needed, 10 Year Cancer Plan has been dropped. But it’s even more disappointing that children and young people weren’t even mentioned in this latest announcement at all.

As leading charities for children and young people with cancer, Young Lives vs Cancer and Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG), are calling for a Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan, to ensure that the unique needs of young cancer patients are recognised, understood, and addressed.

Our Plan, which we developed together throughout 2022, covers the full breadth of priorities of young cancer patients, from diagnosis and treatment, to supporting psychosocial needs and the best possible survivorship, and we want to work with the Department of Health and Social Care, and the sector as a whole, to put it in place and improve experiences and outcomes for every child and young person with cancer.

Childhood and young people’s cancer being seen as ‘rare’ can be misleading. Every year in the UK over 4,000 children and young people under 25 are diagnosed with cancer. Cancer in this age group is different from cancer in older adults. Not only it is biologically different and often faster growing, but it comes at a key developmental stage in their life. Young cancer patients often have significant long-term effects from treatment, not to mention the emotional and mental health impacts. And rightly, it is treated differently to other age-groups. Healthcare strategies put in place, including cancer strategies, are often focused on adult cancers and adult care pathways, and leave out children and young people. They aren’t tailored for what this age group actually needs, and this has to change.

Last year, 6,100 young cancer patients (0-25) accessed Young Lives vs Cancer’s services – the support we give to each young person and families depends on what their needs are. When a child or young person is diagnosed with cancer, their whole life is turned upside-down, but with the right support in place, we can limit the impact that cancer has on the lives of children and young people, and their families.

People often think that once treatment has finished, life can get back to normal, but that’s often not the case. We need joined-up follow-up care so long-term, the child or young person can come to terms with what they’ve been through, and live the best life they can.

We can’t do this on our own, we need the whole sector, as well as the government to work together. Our Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan is ambitious, but it should be, because children and young people diagnosed with cancer deserve the same chances as everybody else.

Our Call for a Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan

4000 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer every year. They need a Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan to supports their unique needs.

You can view our Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan here

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