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Spot childhood cancer warning signs

Written by Allison Cooper

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which takes place every September, creates awareness about many childhood cancers. 

Childhood cancer is on the rise globally, with an estimated one in 408 children worldwide diagnosed with cancer before the age of 15.

According to Taryn Seegers, the Communications Coordinator at the Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa (CHOC), it is believed that two thirds of children with cancer do not receive treatment and often those who do are already in the late stages of the disease.

Since 2011, CHOC has been working with the Department of Health and traditional healers to provide health professionals, healthcare workers, traditional healers and communities with knowledge of childhood cancer.

“These individuals are taught the Siluan early warning signs and learn how to demystify myths and stigma in communities,” says Seegers.

The Siluan early warning signs are:

  • Seek: Medical help for early, persistent symptoms.
  • Eye: White spot in the eye, new squint, new blindness, bulging eyeball.
  • Lump: Abdomen and pelvis, head and neck, limbs, testes and glands.
  • Unexplained: Prolonged fever over two weeks, weight loss, pallor, fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding.
  • Aching: Bones, joints, back and easy fractures.
  • Neurological signs: Change or deterioration in walk, balance or speech, regression of milestones, headache for more than a week with or without vomiting and an enlarged head.

Childhood cancers

Childhood cancers are different from cancers affecting adults. They tend to occur in the organs of the body, look different under the microscope and respond more favourably to treatment, says Seegers.

“Cure rates for most childhood cancers are much higher than those for most adult cancers. Today, in developing countries, the majority of childhood cancers can be treated very effectively, and between 50% to 60% can be cured. In high-income countries, the survival rate can be between 85% to 90%.”

More children need to be diagnosed while the disease is still in its early stages and receive the correct treatment – at specialised treatment centres from appropriate specialists – if the survival rate is to be improved.

For more information, contact CHOC’s helpline at 0800 333 555 or go to www. choc.org.za