How do we measure the impact of a childhood cancer diagnosis? 

There are many ways to we could try to measure the total burden of childhood cancer in the world. We could count the number of new cases per year, for instance, a measure called incidence. Or we could count the number of patients who do not survive their disease within a certain time interval, which is called the mortality rate. These measures convey useful information about how many new cases of childhood cancer develop in the world and what are their consequences, but they don’t tell the whole story. To really understand the impact of a cancer diagnosis, we have to consider what it takes away from the patients. Without cancer, many patients who die early may have lived long, healthy lives.  Even for patients who survive, if they never developed cancer, they would never have suffered the loss of wellbeing due to years of painful treatments. Realizing that this is an important perspective from which to count the costs of cancer, researchers have developed an estimation instrument called the “Disability-Adjusted Life Year”, or DALY for short. Looking at cancer from the perspective of “what might have been” takes some getting used to, but it is worth understanding because it has allowed the global cancer community to uncover some very surprising things about the global burden of cancer and how it compares to other prominent global health concerns.

On this episode, we talk to Dr. Lisa Force and Dr. Nickhill Bhakta, two physicians and researchers who are part of a team that is using DALYs to learn new things about cancer and its consequences. We will spend time discussing what DALYs are, how they are measured, and how they are used. We will also learn about the important and surprising results of their recent study and discuss what they mean for the global oncology community.

The paper we discuss: The global burden of childhood and adolescent cancer in 2017: an analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017

Links mentioned in the episode:

Collaborate with the Global Burden of Disease Study!

GBD Data Visualization Tool (If you like playing with data, seriously check this out!!)

GBD Results Tool (This one too!)