All cancers are characterized with the impetuous growth and spread of anomalous cells. There are both internal and external causative factors of cancer. External causes include radiations, infectious organisms, and chemicals. Internal factors encompass inherited mutations, metabolism related mutations, immune conditions, and hormones. Patlak, Nass, and Balogh argue that these agents may act together or sequentially to stimulate the formation of cancerous cells (p. 56). The treatment of cancer is done mainly through targeted therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy, radiation, and immune therapy.
National Cancer Institute notes that cancer takes a devastating toll on the Americans (p. 7). Diagnoses of more than half of these cases occur after the age of sixty five. Both Holt, Fraya and Plant (p. 13) and Tew and Fisher (p. 6) agree that apart from causing extreme pain and anguish to the patients, their kinsmen and acquaintances, it entails remarkable economic costs: billions of dollars are spent on the patients’ direct health care costs to settle their bills while other billions are lost as a result of reduced productivity emanating from morbidity and mortality. It is worth noting that cancer is the second major killer after heart diseases (Holt et al. 13).
Cancer is the disease that most Americans fear, and a remarkable majority of them believes that hastening its research is a high priority towards improved health. Conducting studies has over the years been the major reaction to the cancer toll. National Cancer Institute remains the principal financier of cancer research. Philanthropic sector is also large and fast-growing and its contribution in the study of cancer is worth appreciating. It is however saddening to note that cancer and general biomedical research financing has reduced considerably, especially over the past few years. Public education and awareness should be an integral part of cancer detection with an aim of persuading people to seek immediate medical attention when certain signs appear as well as encouraging them go for regular screening, especially those in high-risk groups.
Research has over the years been the only effective reaction to the cancer toll. The study has mainly focused on the causes and advancement of the illness, its cure, prevention, and mechanisms of improving the quality of life of those who survive the disease as well as those dying from it. Although all cancers have uncontrolled growth of cells as a unifying factor, they sharply differ in their causal agents, aftereffects, severity, treatment, location, age of onset, and susceptible population groups they attack (National Cancer Institute 31).
The National Cancer Institute was the first specialized institution of the National Institutes of Health established in 1937. The assault on cancer initiated by National Cancer Act of 1971 gave a higher priority of cancer research in the federal budget. This helped to decrease the overall mortality level from cancer around 1991 that has since reduced. This phenomenon may be attributed to the increased insight of causal agents (such as smoking and lung cancer in men), improved preventive measures (for example, screening for breast, cervical, colorectal, and stomach cancers), and enhanced treatments (National Cancer Institute 37).
Cancer Research Funding
The funding by the federal government at the onset of the war against cancer made National Cancer Institute the principal source of support for cancer research. Over the years, however, the funding base has diversified, particularly, during the last two decades. Pharmaceutical companies that did little cancer study in the early 1970s have remarkably multiplied their budgets to facilitate cancer research. Biotechnology corporations, even though they are relatively new in the industry, are also pursuing cancer and other diseases studies fueled with billions of dollars from venture capital and stock proceeds.
The National Cancer Institute is the principal cancer research financier, but the contribution of other departments, institutes and agencies cannot be overlooked. Department of Defense, for instance, has become a key player in the study of prostate and breast cancers.
National Cancer Institute reviews its strategic plan on research with the scientific community every year. Further, the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has incorporated cancer in its study of biological responses to environmental agents. Since cancer affects every organ, system, and each age group, every NIH institute and the majority of centers support some cancer-related research and report how much they spend on the same.
Other sources of funding encompass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Health Care Financing Administration, and Department of Health and Human Services. Further, individuals with huge fortunes establish foundations in support of cancer studies. Others with smaller resources make sizable donations to local charities which include cancer research centers. Although being relatively small, these private funds make significant contributions because of their flexibility. They can be directed on financing cancer research activities that cannot be funded from other sources. For instance, they may be used to service a new study until it qualifies a peer-reviewed grant, or finance a risky research until the researcher acquires adequate results to apply for a grant (Ochs, Casagrande, & Davuluri 68).
Is Cancer Research Sufficiently Funded?
Generally, the biomedical research funding in the United States has considerably dropped over the recent past. The unpredictable funding poses a threat to the investments in innovations which are critical in the advancements of the scientific knowledge necessary for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cancer and other diseases. In the late 1990s, President Clinton in consultation with the United States Congress committed themselves to doubling of the NIH’s budget for a period of five years. The result was an increment of the fund to $26.7 billion in 2003 from the previous $13.7 billion in 1998. According to Department of Health & Human Services, this unanticipated surge in the funding resulted in a phenomenal increase in the number of grants awarded to research, bolstered infrastructure, in addition to facilitating the expansion of the scientific workforce (p. 35).
Further, shifts in national priorities and the subsequent economic recession in the following years have resulted in marginal decrease of NCI and NIH’s annual budgets if there are any. The funding instability emanating from the shortfalls in the budget has compounded detrimental impacts. It is quite a challenge for the benefiting research institutions to plan their research programs if the budget keeps fluctuating year after year.
The period of budget doubling recorded unimaginable rates of success for NIH. At least 30% of the grant applications that were reviewed received funding. Other agencies engaged in cancer research and cares have equally suffered over the recent past. Among them is the Department of Defense Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). CDMRP has spent more than $4.1 billion on cancer studies since 1992. Most of their cancer research programs have had their budgets decreased of frozen.
Educating the Public
According to Patlak’s et al. argument, to a large extent cancer can be controlled with robust public health mechanisms; for example, in the case of lung cancer, mitigation is absolutely feasible if people can be convinced to stop heavy cigarette smoking. However, in most cancer cases, it is agreeable that unless profound means of screening are instituted, it is entirely the patient’s responsibility to make the first vital step in diagnosing deciding that some symptom requires a visit to the doctor for consultation.
Public education and awareness must thus be an integral part of cancer detection programs. The awareness campaigns should have the following two objectives; first, they should persuade people to seek immediate medical help when certain signs appear; second, the programs should encourage individuals to go for regular screening, especially those in high-risk groups. The first objective aims at facilitating the initiation of usual habits of seeking medical care attention and changing conventional perception of cancer. The second purpose is meant to prescribe the course of action necessary to prevent the development of cancer or progression beyond curative treatment stage.
While I totally concur with Holt’s et al. proposition that public education and awareness should be an integral part of cancer detection programs, neither of the educational problems can be dealt with in isolation (p. 72). They necessitate a proper appreciation of the challenges of trying to antagonize the powerful social demands that make people accommodate well-defined behavior patterns. Moreover, they call for sensitization of the need to make small steps that expect no sudden major change in the established habits or persuasions of the community.
In a nutshell, public awareness requires education that will give a general overview of hopeful information about cancer, emphasizing those forms which may be cured if treatment is started at an early stage, but avoiding exaggerated claims concerning the less manageable forms. This kind of information is necessary if tests meant to detect the disease are to be viewed in real outlook as a means of ensuring that people do not die of curable forms of cancer and to provide specific information about detection tests and what services are available for all the susceptible populations.
In conclusion, it is clear that the National Cancer Institute remains the principal financier of cancer research. However, the philanthropic sector is also large and fast-growing and its contribution towards cancer studies cannot be overlooked. In addition, public education plays a critical role in cancer detection and mitigation. It is therefore necessary to come up with clear structures. That will ensure there is a continuous public education on cancer, its causes, early signs and how some cancers can be prevented.