Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the American Cancer Society, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and Stand Up 2 Cancer are a few widely known associations among the public and the medical community. These foundations make substantial monetary contributions towards the never-ending fight against cancer. There is no doubting that this is a terrible disease in which the body’s cells divide much too rapidly often causing malignant tumors that can unleash hell upon various organ systems. For any person to suffer through such a condition must be unbearable. But, imagine one having no control over the movement of his or her limbs, being spoon fed by someone at the age of fifty, or having a voice permeating all of one’s thoughts insisting that suicide is a great idea. Unfortunately, these are all symptoms of debilitating, neurological disorders. As terrible as they are, has the everyday individual ever heard of the CureHD Foundation or the Michael J. Fox Foundation? Not likely. Just because serious neurological disorders do not receive as much recognition as often as diseases like cancer, does not mean they deserve any less attention.
It is generally believed that having money can accomplish anything. Should that be the case when it comes to the health of people with potentially terminal conditions? The National Cancer Institute within the United States reportedly spends 4.8 to 5.2 billion dollars annually on cancer research. (NIH) As if that number was not large enough, it is estimated to rise to approximately 5.5 billion in 2013. Most of this money comes from private corporations or governments. What do those numbers look like for neurodegenerative diseases this year? In comparison, they amount to a mere 1.7 billion. The question must be asked- why is there such a big difference? Just because one condition gets more publicity over another does not make it any more important. Everyone wants a cute bracelet with a catchy saying on it, or a decal that will match the paint job on one’s car.
How often can these things be seen supporting ALS or schizophrenia? But, “Save the Tatas” can be recognized anywhere. For the people suffering through any particular neurological disease, seeing so many ads, campaigns, and fundraisers for other conditions must be extremely discouraging. What makes these people get less attention? Alongside cancer, neurodegenerative diseases do not have a cure. Both conditions affect millions of people worldwide. Both do not guarantee that one will make it out with his or her life. Speaking of which, cancer patients can always go into remission. This is a state where cancer cells completely disappear from the body or a dramatic decrease in the amount of faulty cells is noticed. Patients of neurological diseases never experience such a glimmer of hope. Knowing these facts, there is no doubt that something can be changed to balance out the funding of health conditions as a whole, regardless of the publicity they get.
As previously mentioned, most of the money that goes into funding the research of diseases like cancer is provided by private corporations or governments. What is hard to understand is how institutions like this, especially a country’s government, could allow such a discrepancy in monetary values awarded to the study of various diseases? Can it be argued that a certain degree of favoritism is being shown? There is no doubting the incredible amount of money that one would earn for discovering a cure to a condition as famous as cancer. Once again, where is the appreciation for the severity of neurological disorders? Conditions like narcolepsy, Parkinson’s, and dementia are not even included in the CDC’s list of Diseases and Conditions. Yet, every form of cancer known to man is displayed. Polio, for example, has been virtually eradicated in the United States still remains on that list. As well conditions that can be self inflicted such as obesity. The lack of accessibility to information about certain neurological disorders on such a renowned list could not only be viewed as unfair, but also as disrespectful to the people that have been diagnosed with such conditions.
Forget about comparing neurological conditions to cancer or any other type of disorder for a moment. Within the field of neurology and other fields associated with it, what are the brilliant minds of today’s day and age doing with the information that has already been discovered? An article written in November of 2011 states, “neuroscientist Dr. Kent Kiehl of the University of New Mexico scanned Brian Dugan’s brain, as part of a unique project to understand how anti-social behavior is related to brain structure and function.” (Taylor) The human being studied in this case was a serial killer who confessed to the murder of a seven year old girl. Though this event is tragic, why do some neurologists choose to research such topics when there are countless conditions of the brain that do not yet have a cure? Huntington’s chorea for example was first described in 1872 and the genetic mutation on chromosome four that causes the disease was identified in 1993. There is no reason that a disease like this whose cause was discovered more than twenty years ago still does not have any more major improvements made by those that research it as a career.
With a fifty percent chance of inheriting the condition that causes all bodily functions and behavior to completely shut down, there are still doctors in this field that feel it is necessary to focus more on the human mind than on terrible diseases that slowly corrode it. Thankfully there are meetings held annually that help neurologists all over the world to share and gather information. “In Honolulu, nearly 10,000 clinicians and researchers from 93 countries across the globe gathered at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) — the world’s largest gathering of neurologists, with more than 2,500 scientific posters and talks.” (Bardi) I do not think it could be disputed that if all these incredible minds came together to formulate different methods to cure the patients suffering from neurological disorders, more results could be seen.
Knowing all of this information, how could one that is interested in pursuing a career in the medical field not have a spark of passion ignite within so that new, substantial advances in neurology can be made? The difference in the projected amount of money that is going to be raised in 2013 for cancer in comparison to the amount that is estimated to be raised for neurodegenerative diseases should definitely be enough to open some eyes. It is not, nor should it ever be okay for the medical community, popular foundations, or a government to send the message that if one particular group has more money, more attention will be afforded to its cause. In the future one can only hope that more information will be dispersed regarding neurological disorders and in turn more cures will be found. But until that time, it is not okay to forget that just because serious neurological disorders do not receive as much recognition as often as diseases like cancer, does not mean they deserve any less attention.