Early detection crucial for treatment of childhood cancer

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1 000 children are diagnosed with cancer every day around the globe.  

The Department of Health has encouraged healthcare workers and communities to be mindful of early signs of childhood cancer.

Identifying these signs, according to the department, can lead to early detection and the successful management of childhood cancers, resulting in better outcomes.

The call was made as South Africa joins the global community in commemorating International Childhood Cancer Day on Thursday to raise awareness about childhood cancers and to express support for children and adolescents living with cancer, survivors, and their families.

The day is observed on 15 February annually to highlight the vital role of community engagement and support in addressing the complexities associated with childhood and adolescent cancer.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1 000 children are diagnosed with cancer every day around the globe.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that 1 000 new cases of child cancer are recorded annually by the South African Children’s Tumour Registry (SACTR), but many are missed and do not receive treatment.

“Parents, educators, general practitioners and paediatricians play a crucial role in early detection of childhood cancers,” the department explained.

According to the department, knowing the early signs of childhood cancers is important.

These include a white spot in the eye or sudden blindness, a lump on any place on the body mostly on the stomach, unexplained fever or weight loss, aching bones and easy fractures, and a change in walk and headache with or without vomiting.

The common childhood cancers in South Africa are leukaemia, lymphoma, brain tumours, eye and kidney tumours.

The department in collaboration with the South African Association of Paediatric Haematology of Oncology (SAAPHO), WHO and CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA acknowledge and commend the significant contributions made by various stakeholders, including the medical community, civil society, parent groups, non-governmental organisations and individual members of society.

CHOC CEO, Hedley Lewis, said these contributions support children and adolescents with cancer, survivors, and their families.

“Cancer impacts negatively on siblings and other family members. The challenges these families face extend beyond medical treatment, encompassing emotional, physical and social, financial, educational, and long-term health effects,” she explained.

According to the Chair of the South African Association of Paediatric Haematology Oncology, Professor Gita Naidu, there is a need to raise primary health care and community awareness of Siluan’s early warning signs of childhood cancers especially among parents, caregivers and educators.

“Early diagnosis and swift referral to treating centres is imperative to improve the outcomes of this dreaded disease. Childhood cancer is curable, but only if diagnosed and treated timeously,” Naidu added.

The WHO Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC), launched in 2018, aims to improve the overall survival to 60% globally by 2030 and allow these children and adolescents to live and die without pain and suffering.

“South Africa remains committed to focusing on childhood cancer and is aligned with the WHO-GICC goals.”

The statement stated that SAAPHO and CHOC are hosting SIOP Africa in Johannesburg from 4 to 8 June 2024.

The conference is an opportunity to share knowledge, collaborate, and engage with stakeholders nationally, on the continent and globally to improve the lives of children and adolescents with cancer. –

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