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Health ministry requests funding to support young cancer patients

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has requested 32 million yen from next fiscal year's budget to create long-term support systems for young cancer patients, the first time the ministry has moved forward with support targeted for that group.

    The new support will be for children and the so-called "Adolescent and Young Adult" generation, often identified as those aged 15-39. Cancer patients among these groups require different treatment and handling from elderly cancer patients, and the requested budget money is to be used for purposes including training a variety of medical staff to create support teams.

    According to year 2012 statistics from National Cancer Center Japan, there were 21,572 cancer patients in that particular age group in Japan. Although they only represented 2.5 percent of the total number of cancer patients in the country, their treatment coincides with major life events like school enrollment, employment, marriage and childbirth, so social and psychiatric support is necessary. There are many different varieties of cancer seen in children under 15, and such young patients often face challenges in their treatment, such as when radiation treatment or anti-cancer drugs cause infertility or occurrences of more cancer later on. Those in the 15-39 age group, meanwhile, are affected by both cancers that are seen in young children and cancers that usually affect adults, and cooperation will be needed between medical practitioners for both of these types of cancer.

    The support teams will mainly be stationed at 15 designated pediatric cancer hospitals around the nation. They will include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and clinical psychologists.

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