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For Release:
January 18, 2011

Poonam Alaigh, MD, MSHCPM, FACP

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Department of Health and Senior Services Commemorates Teen Cancer Awareness Week


(New Brunswick) To highlight the unique medical and social challenges facing teenage cancer patients, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh today toured the teen lounge and met with patients and survivors at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ).


“Teen cancer does not get a lot of attention and that’s why Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation last month recognizing the third week in January each year as teen cancer awareness week,’’ the commissioner said.


 As a physician, I know that early detection ensures early treatment and improves survival rates. Teen Cancer Awareness Week will serve as a reminder to parents that adolescents need annual checkups,” said Dr. Alaigh.


There are approximately 124 cases of cancer in New Jersey adolescents between the ages of 15- 19 each year.


 “As parents the health and well-being of our children is our number one priority. Teens with cancer very often face special concerns that are both social and medical and are different from younger pediatric patients,” the commissioner said.


“The more we raise awareness and educate consumers about regular physician checkups, health screenings and healthy lifestyles, the more lives we will save,” noted Commissioner Alaigh.


Teen Cancer Awareness Week was initiated by the Alicia Rose “Victorious” Foundation (ARVF), to promote cancer awareness and understanding of the unique needs of teens that have the disease. ARVF was established in honor of Alicia Rose DiNatale of Voorhees Township, who died in October 2002 after a 13-month battle with cancer at the age of 17. 


“With the recognition of Teen Cancer Awareness Week, the New Jersey has created a precedence in identifying the unique needs that hospitalized teens experience,” said DiNatale,” Founder and Executive Director of ARVF. “The Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation is proud to have spear-headed this initiative so that the voice and concerns of these courageous teens can now be heard."


ARVF is dedicated to bringing hope, excitement, and entertainment to teens that are facing difficult conditions while receiving hospital treatment by providing various activities and services consistent with Alicia’s outlook on making life good. ARVF has a goal of making the time teens spend in local hospitals and other treatment facilities as entertaining as possible by providing games, movies, music and a place to hang out and just be with their friends or other teens.



CINJ’s Teen Lounge was established in 2005 with help from ARVF and includes laptop computers, couches, a television, and video game console.  Movies, magazines and microbial-treated furniture, considered ideal for an immuno-compromised setting, round out the space.


“The CINJ teen lounge makes working through cancer a little easier for our teenage patients,” said CINJ Director Dr. Robert S. DiPaola. “It is critical to recognize the challenges faced by adolescent cancer patients, including social needs.  Giving teenagers a place of their own to talk and interact helps improve their well-being while they undergo cancer treatment.  By recognizing Teen Cancer Awareness Week, we are all reminded of the unique needs for cancer prevention, research, education and care for this population.”


Note to Press:

Celebrity Chief Buddy Valastro of Carlo’s Bake Shop of Hoboken, is providing a cake for the event.



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Cancer Prevalence in New Jersey:

  • Cancer in adolescents and young adults is relatively uncommon, although not as rare as in children.
  • Among NJ adolescents 15-19 years old, there were 3,472 cases of cancer diagnosed from 1979-2006.  About 124 cases are diagnosed each year
  • The most common cancers in this age group were lymphoma, leukemia, and brain and other nervous system.  This contrasts with childhood cancer, where leukemia, brain and other central nervous system cancers, lymphoma and neuroblastoma predominate.
  • If you expand the age group to include young adults along with adolescents (15 to 29-year-olds), 18,379 cases of cancer were diagnosed from 1979-2006.  Cases average 658 annually.
  • Lymphoma, testis and thyroid cancer are the most common types in this expanded age group. 



Cancer Mortality Rates in New Jersey:

  • Cancer is the fourth leading cause of death among young people ages 15-19 and 15-29 (after injuries, homicide and suicide), and the leading cause of death from disease (based on 2007 provisional data.)
  • Cancer mortality rates are quite low for adolescents and young adults.  They are lower than the U.S. rates for brain and other nervous system cancer, and female breast cancer.  They are about the same for testis, skin melanoma and cervical cancer.
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