Cancer in children

Childhood cancer has a profound effect on everyone it touches. Discovering that your child is suffering from a life threatening illness or disease is one of the most traumatic events for any parent. Nothing can ever prepare you for the experience. With empathetic support and the right information, it is possible to not only survive its ravages, but also end up stronger, wiser and more compassionate.

In South Africa, very few children receive effective treatment because they are diagnosed at such a late stage, if they are diagnosed at all. The South African Children’s Cancer Study Group (SACCSG), together with CHOC (Children’s Haematology Oncology Clinics) and all the specialist paediatric oncologists in South Africa, has prepared a set of Warning Signs to help improve early diagnosis.

The Saint Siluan Warning Signs

Saint Siluan was a Russian monk who prayed ceaselessly for all humanity.

• Seek: Medical help early for persistent symptoms.

• Eye: White spot in the eye, new squint, new blindness, bulging eyeball.

• Lump: Abdomen and pelvis, head and neck, limbs, testes, glands.

• Unexplained: Prolonged fever over two weeks, loss of weight, pallor, fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding.

• Aching: Bones, joints, back and easy fractures.

• Neurological: Change or deterioration in walk, balance or speech, regression of milestones, headache for more than a week with or without vomiting, enlarging head.

The list of warning signs has been made into A2 posters in English, Zulu, Xhosa, SeSotho and Afrikaans and has been distributed to Primary Healthcare Clinics countrywide.

Surviving Childhood Cancer

A lot of progress has been made in treating childhood cancers in recent decades, and many of these cancers can now be cured. Still, the progress in some cancers has been greater than in others. According to Silvia Craucamp, Nurse Clinical Officer and Training Coordinator for CHOC, childhood cancer can be cured as follows:

  • Treatment in a Paediatric Unit
  • With a Multidisciplinary Team
  • Receiving Multimodal Therapy such as:
  1. Chemotherapy
  2. Radiation
  3. Surgery
  • Improvements in Supportive Care, including:
  1. CU
  2. Antibiotics
  3. Central Venous Lines
  4. Blood Products
  5. Follow International, multi-centre trial protocols

Written By Elsje Beneke.

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