There is a dire need for more awareness surrounding Childhood Cancer!
The Little Fighters Cancer Trust advocates CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS by distributing early warning signs of childhood cancer pamphlet and A1 laminated posters; via our September Awareness Campaign, various other campaigns, and by offering informative presentations
Childhood Cancer is a collection of diseases. It is the leading cause of death in children under 18.
There is a VAST difference between Adult and Childhood Cancer – Children are still subject to growth spurts within a short period of time; this may result in the cancer spreading faster and more aggressively.
According to the South African National Tumour Registry:
- There are 700 new cases of childhood cancer diagnosed in SA annually
- Less than 33% of actual childhood cancer cases are diagnosed in South Africa every year – this means that there is up to 1 400 children who contracted cancer but were never diagnosed, who were denied the opportunity for treatment or even a fighting chance.
- Childhood cancer mortality rates in South Africa are almost DOUBLE what they are in the rest of the world!
The 12 major types of Childhood Cancer are:
- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL)
- Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)
- Brain Tumours
- Ewing’s Sarcoma
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL)
- Wilms Tumour
The most Common Childhood Cancers in South Africa are:
- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) – Bone & joint pain; Fatigue; Weakness; Bleeding; Fever; Weight-loss
- Brain Tumours – Headaches; dizziness; vision/hearing or speech problems; frequent vomiting
- Neuroblastoma – Impaired ability to walk; changes in the eyes (bulging, dark circles, droopy eyelids); diarrhoea; high blood pressure; pain in various locations in the body
- Wilms Tumour – Swelling or lump in the abdomen; fever; pain; nausea; poor appetite
- Lymphoma – Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin; weight-loss; fever; sweats; weakness
Childhood Cancer Treatments
Conventional Medical Treatments include:
- Radiation therapy
- Stem Cell or Bone Marrow Transplant
- Gene Therapy
The average length of treatment for children, from initial diagnosis to cure or remission, is 3 years. If the child experiences a relapse, the treatment time could possibly be extended over many years with a potentially lowered prognosis.
Children with cancer can best be helped by doctors who have specialised in treating Paediatric Cancer Patients. These specialised treatment centres are spread across the country, often very far from their homes, so families must travel to get the best treatment for their children.
The Need for Progress
- The prevalence of Paediatric Cancer has risen by 29% over the past 20 years.
- Over the past 20 years, the FDA has only approved ONE new drug exclusively for paediatric patients.
- Children with Cancer are still being treated with medications that were developed in the 1950’s – 1970’s.
- Childhood Cancer is still seen as being rare, often referred to as an “Orphan Disease ” so drug development for this group of patients is not considered to be “Cost Effective”
Side-Effects of Childhood Cancer
Childhood Cancer can result in many side-effects, including physical, social, and emotional side effects. Side effects depend on a variety of factors, including the cancer’s stage, the length and dosage of treatment(s), and the child’s overall health.
- Chemo and Radiation Therapy make children feel sick and weak, and also make their hair fall out.
- This can be very scary and can make Children with Cancer feel different from their peers.
- These children are also often coping with major trust issues, since the world no longer feels safe.
- They often feel that their parents and other adults can no longer protect them, since each new adult is usually associated with a painful procedure.
Childhood Cancer affects the whole family.
Sometimes, one or even both parents must stop work in order to care for the sick child. There are added costs for medicine, travel to the hospital/clinic, special foods, medical equipment etc. This all puts additional Financial, Emotional, and Social stress on the parents.
Parents can often spend more than 40 hours per week caring for their sick child. This often means that the family is split up with (normally) the mother at her child’s bedside in the hospital, sometimes for months on end, which leaves a hole in the family unit at home. Studies have shown that mothers of a Child with Cancer may exhibit symptoms similar to those of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Siblings needs are often put aside because the Child with Cancer needs so much attention and care. Siblings are also worried about their brother or sister, and may become resentful and feel abandoned. This may lead to behavioural problems, anxiety, or depression because they feel like “the invisible child”. They may also begin to have trouble in school or in social situations. Counselling specifically for siblings is often necessary.
The Battle After Treatment
- As many as 67% of Childhood Cancer Survivors have at least one chronic health effect (e.g. Heart, Lungs, Thyroid).
- 25% of Survivors have severe or life-threatening effects.
- 10% of Survivors will develop a secondary cancer.
- Follow-up care is CRUCIAL. However, only 20% of children receive follow-up care.
Out of every 4 children diagnosed:
- 1 will not survive past 5 years;
- 3 will have life-long complications due to aggressive treatments for their cancer.
- When treatment stops, an entirely different battle begins…
- Because children’s bodies are still developing, toxic therapies damage more than just the cancer cells.
Young cancer survivors live the remainder of their lives with the side-effects of their initial treatments, such as:
- Delayed/Disrupted Cognitive Development
- Stunted Growth
- Damaged Speech and/or Hearing
- Infertility and Endocrine Dysfunction
- Learning Disabilities
- Physical Handicaps due to Nerve Damage or Amputation
Child Cancer Survival Rates
- Some Childhood Cancers have a 5 year Survival Rate of more than 90% – others have a 5 year Survival Rate of less than 2%.
- Approximately 80% of children with cancer in Africa die without access to adequate care.
- Less than 50% of the Children with Cancer in South Africa are actually diagnosed, and many of those who are diagnosed, are already in the advanced stages of the illness.
The Need for Awareness
In 80% of cases, a Child’s Cancer Diagnosis is delayed until the disease is very advanced and has metastasised (spread to other parts of the body).
Childhood Cancers are aggressive so a late diagnosis can significantly affect the 5-year survival probability of the child. Early Diagnosis Saves Lives!!