Look out for early signs of childhood cancer

Written by More Matshediso

A lack of awareness of childhood cancer and its symptoms means that many South African children are diagnosed when the disease is at an advanced stage.

The earlier cancer is diagnosed and treated, the higher the chance of a full recovery. 

Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa (CHOC) Communication Coordinator Taryn Seegers says by knowing the common signs of cancer in young people, you could help save a life.

“The signs and symptoms can be difficult to spot amid the normal bumps, bruises, growth spurts and mood swings. However, early detection is key,” she says.

According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), between 800 to
1 000 South African children are diagnosed with cancer each year.

However, the association estimates that half of the children with cancer in South Africa are never diagnosed.

To help ensure cancer is spotted as soon as possible, CHOC runs awareness programmes in communities, telling parents and children about the early warning signs they must look out for.

The foundation supports children and teenagers with cancer or life-threatening blood disorders and their families.

“We aim to improve early detection and facilitate effective treatment. At any one time, CHOC can have over 1 500 children and teenagers in its care, while offering psycho-social support to over 1 500 families,” says Seegers.

In the past financial year, Seegers says CHOC was able to serve 1 724 children, 553 teenagers and
2 232 adults through its core programmes.

 “Our services include emotional support through their cancer journey, comfort, end-of-life care and bereavement support,” says Seegers.

St Siluan’s signs of childhood cancer

  • S – Seek medical help early for ongoing symptoms.
  • I – White spot in the eye, new squint, sudden blindness or bulging eyeball.
  • L – Lump on the stomach, pelvis, head, arms, legs, testicle or glands.
  • U – Unexplained fever present for over two weeks, weight loss, fatigue, pale appearance, easy bruising and bleeding.
  • A – Aching bones, joints, back and easy fractures.
  • N – Neurological signs, a change in walking, balance or speech, continuous headaches with/without vomiting and an enlarged head.

“Teenagers, busy with sports and activities, often do not notice the first symptoms of their cancer,” says Seegers.

For more information, contact the CHOC helpline at 0800 333 555 or visit www.choc.org.za