Brain cancer is leading cause of cancer death in young people

Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in young people* and accounts for more than one third of cancer deaths in children aged under 10.

This alarming statistic marks the commencement of the second annual Brain Cancer Action Week, an initiative designed to raise awareness and funds for research into brain cancer, the least funded and deadliest cancer in Australia.

Today, leading neurosurgeon, Dr Charlie Teo, joined Cancer Council in launching the week by calling for an increase in funding for research into brain cancer.

Dr Teo said, “People continue to believe that cancer is a disease that strikes as you get older. I saw 23 patients last week. Twenty were diagnosed with malignant brain cancer. Eight of those diagnosed were under 16 years old.

“It will take $50 billion over the next 30 to 50 years to find a cure for brain cancer but we need some significant funds injected now if we are to see any reduction in brain cancer related deaths.

“Once diagnosed, patients have just a five per cent chance of surviving this extremely aggressive disease. Most die within six months.

Dr Andrew Penman, CEO of Cancer Council NSW  echoed Dr Teo’s call for funding.

Dr Penman said, “Despite having a fatality rate of almost 100 per cent, brain cancer remains the least understood of all the cancers. It’s the biggest cancer killer of young people and we need funds to change this.

“Each year about 1400 cases of malignant brain cancer are diagnosed in Australia and about 1100 people die from the disease.   That’s one every eight hours. Risk factors of brain cancer are unknown and there are no screening procedures in place. Until we have the funds for more research, the survival rate will not improve.

“A third of cancers can be prevented by making conscious lifestyle choices, for example by not smoking, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. However, brain cancer is indiscriminate and due to the lack of research we don’t know how to prevent it.

“Worryingly, there has been no significant improvement to brain cancer survival rates in almost two decades, but with research we can make a difference.   Look at leukaemia, which killed 90 per cent of patients just 15 years ago.   The figure has now turned on its head with a survival rate of 90 per cent due to funds for research.   Brain Cancer Action Week aims to be instrumental in offering brain cancer patients a similar turn around in survival rates.”

To find out more about Brain Cancer Action Week 2011 and how to donate, please visit www.braincanceraction.com.au.
 

-ENDS-

Key statistics and interview opportunities below.
* This figure is for people aged 0-39 years

About Brain Cancer Action Week

Now in its second year, Brain Cancer Action Week (BCAW) will run from 8th – 14th May 2011. The week is headed by Cancer Council as part of a collaborative movement for increased awareness and funding for brain cancer; the least-funded cancer in Australia and amongst the least researched and least understood, despite being one of the most fatal.

Key statistics

Children

Under-10

  • Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in children aged under-10, accounting for one third of all cancer deaths in this age group.
  • About 57 children aged under-10 are diagnosed with brain cancer per year and about 26 children die in this age group per year.

Under-15

  • Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in children aged under 15 years, accounting for one third of cancer deaths in this age bracket.
  • About 75 children under-15 are diagnosed with brain cancer per year, and about 33 die per year.

Young people

  • Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in people aged 0-39 years with an average of 120 deaths per year.
  • Brain cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in females aged 0-44 years (behind breast cancer) with an average of 69 deaths per year.
  • Brain cancer (all ages)
  • Each year about 1400 cases of malignant brain cancer are diagnosed in Australia and about 1100 people die from the disease each year.
  • This year it’s estimated* that about 1600 people will be diagnosed with brain cancer and 1300 people will die from the disease in Australia

*Figure from the report Cancer in Australia, an overview 2010, by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

  • One person is diagnosed with brain cancer every six hours and one person dies from malignant brain cancer every eight hours in Australia.

General

  • The most common malignant brain cancer, high grade glioma (HGG), is almost 100% fatal
  • Brain cancer is one of the most under-studied of all cancers yet  receives very little  research funding
  • No significant improvement  has been made in survival rates in almost two decades
  • Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in children
  • Brain cancer strikes adults and children alike, with the incidence highest in adults in the prime of life.
  • No risk factors have been identified and no screening procedures are in place
  • Brain cancer carries the highest individual financial burden of all cancers with an average cost more than 5 times higher than for breast or prostate cancer.