Knowledge is key: What you need to know about the most common childhood cancer in SA

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There are only a few specialised childhood cancer centres in Southern Africa.
There are only a few specialised childhood cancer centres in Southern Africa.

Leukaemia and lymphoma are two of the most prevalent cancers in children in South Africa with between 800 and 1000 children diagnosed annually. Tragically, it is estimated that half of the children with cancer in this country are never diagnosed.

Dr Marion Morkel, Chief Medical Officer at Sanlam, believes that we all need to educate ourselves so we can recognise the symptoms of cancer.

Below, Dr Morkel explains what can be done in the fight against leukaemia and lymphoma.

Knowledge is key

You must be aware of the symptoms related to leukaemia and lymphoma so that you can notify your health professional should you see these symptoms in your child.


Leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer accounting for 25% of all cases in South Africa.

Symptoms include: 

  • bone and joint pain
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • bleeding
  • fever
  • weight loss


Lymphoma primarily originates from the lymph nodes and can often appear like any other illness that triggers an inflammatory response. 

Symptoms to look out for include: 

  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • sweats 
  • weakness

While other childhood illnesses can present in the same manner as leukaemia and lymphoma, health professionals have been trained to look out for symptoms that persist after routine treatment and will conduct tests to rule out the possibility of these childhood blood-related cancers.

Parents are encouraged to consult their doctor if there are any concerns about their child’s health.

ALSO READ | Should I be worried if my child has pain in his tummy?

Register to become a blood stem cell (bone marrow) donor

The Sunflower Fund is a non-profit organisation that fights blood diseases through a blood stem cell transplant which replaces a person’s defective stem cells with healthy ones and can be a potentially life-saving treatment for more than 70 different diseases.

Kim Webster, Head of Communications at The Sunflower Fund advises that finding a matching donor for a stem cell transplant is not as easy as finding a blood type match.

There is only a 1:100 000 chance of a patient finding their life-saving match with siblings only having a 25% chance of a match.

You can register to become a donor online via

Submitted to Parent24 by Atmosphere


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