Childhood cancer in the spotlight in September

2019-08-28 06:00

ONE out of 408 children under the age of 16 can get childhood cancer. This is according to the Childhood Cancer Foundation SA.

September marks Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Communications coordinator at CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA Taryn Seegers told the Gazette that cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in a particular organ of the body causing a growth or tumour.

“These cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body.

If cancer cells are not stopped, the disease will eventually lead to disabilities and / or the death of the child.

“Cancers that occur in children are generally different to those of adults.

“Most cancers in children occur in developing cells, like bone marrow, blood, kidneys and tissues of the nervous system.

“The most common childhood cancer is leukaemia, followed by tumours of the brain, and by a wide variety of other tumours.

“Childhood cancer usually occurs in the developing cell and therefore it is fast growing.

Childhood cancers usually occur in organs, because they mimic the dividing (primitive) cells of early foetal development. This rapid cell division means that childhood cancer responds well to treatment,” Seegers said.

Recent studies indicate that child cancer cases are common in low income countries.

Seegers, agreed, saying: “This is true, the reason there may be a variation in incidence of paediatric cancers between high-income to low-income countries may be from misdiagnosis or late diagnosis, including different risk factors (eg. paediatric Burkitt lymphoma in sub-Saharan Africa is associated with Epstein–Barr virus infection in conjunction with malaria, whereas Burkitt lymphoma in industrialised countries is not associated with these infectious conditions), or differences in risk among different ethnic or racial population subgroups.”

However, childhood cancer is curable, with the survival rate in South Africa on the rise.

“Survival rates in high-income countries reach an average of 84% and are steadily improving even in less-resourced areas of the world where there are integrated care programmes.

“The good news is that the childhood cancer survival rate in SA is on the rise [unquoted around 55%] however it should still be higher.

“The survival rate must be seen in the context of the disease.

Doctors are building a relationship of trust with patients and their families by saying that there is a bigger chance for cure if threated than if not treated and that we should continue to focus on early detection and treatment.”

According to CHOC, the most common childhood cancer in South Africa is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).

Others include brain tumours and nephroblastoma

Recent reports indicate that in certain communities people believe that child cancer is contagious.

Seegers explained: “There is a huge stigma and many myths related to childhood cancers. Cancer is not contagious. Cancer cannot be spread from one child to another. We often isolate children with cancer as their immunity is low and they are vulnerable to infections.

“In September we will continue to spread as much awareness as possible in schools, communities and corporate places. We will be hosting many events, details can be found on our social media pages throughout South Africa.”

The people that CHOC serve are the children, teenagers and families of those affected by childhood cancer.

CHOC SERVES PEOPLE BY PROVIDING MULTIPLE SERVICES SUCH AS:

• Professional psychosocial support

• Emotional support: parental and family support

• Accommodation

• Transport assistance

• Practical support

• Cognitive and post treatment support

• General awareness

• Awareness training and education programmes

• Advocacy.

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