More and More Children are Surviving Cancer
In South Africa, there are 1 500 new cases of Childhood Cancer diagnosed every year. Owing to earlier methods of detection, improved medication and more effective treatment methods, many more children’s lives are saved than was the case even 30 years ago.
In 1969 NO children with leukemia survived.
55% of the Little Fighters treated at Tygerberg Hospital’s Paediatric Oncology Unit since 1983 were still alive in 1998, according to Professor Peter Hesseling, Head of the department Paediatrics and Child Health of the faculty of Health at the University of Stellenbosch.
One out of every 75 000 children develop cancer every year. In South Africa, 15 000 new cases of children with cancer are diagnosed every year.
Limited Chances of Survival in Africa
More than 75% of children in the world who develop cancer die unnecessarily because they do not have access to modern Childhood Cancer cancer therapies. With very few exceptions, African countries and most other developing countries do not have state hospitals that have modern facilities or medications for the effective treatment of Childhood Cancer.
Types of Cancer Common in Children
The most common cancers amongst childhood patients in South Africa is:
- Leukaemia (24%);
- Brain Tumours (21 %);
- Lymphomas (16%);
- Cancer of the Kidney – Wilm’s tumour (10%); and
- Cancer of the Sympathic Nervous System – Neuroblastoma
Leukaemia attacks the bone marrow where the blood stem cells are produced as well as the white blood cells, and lymphomas affect the lymphatic system.
The greatest progress has been made in the field of early detection of cancer. This can be ascribed to two factors :
- The ability to identify specific genetic changes that are connected to leukaemia and other types of cancer; and
- Better and more efficient chemotherapy drugs.
Owing to improved chemotherapy drugs, less radiotherapy is necessary these days; radiation can now also be done more accurately, thereby reducing the chances of damaging healthy cells.
A long-term follow-up study looking at children who were treated for cancer at Tygerberg Hospital over the past 20 years showed that the survival rate of these patients was the highest in Africa, and compared well to the best survival rates in Western Europe and other Western countries.
The greatest strides as far as treatment is concerned were made in the last decade in the treatment of Leukaemia, Burkitt Lymphomas and all other types of Lymphomas. The survival rate for Leukaemia has increased from 60% to over 80% in the past ten years.
The follow-up study also revealed that most children who survive cancer make normal progress at school. More than 80% of the children who survived, are now, as in any other control group, working adults. Most of them are healthy.
Only in the cases where patients had brain cancer, where the cancer itself, surgery or radiotherapy could have damaged brain cells, some of the survivors are handicapped or severely handicapped.
Various studies have revealed that one of the side-effects of radiation of the brain can influence bone density and that children who have undergone radiation therapy are more prone to bone fractures. This risk seems to change as children get older and puberty sets in and it is yet to be determined whether the effects of this radiotherapy are in any way long-term.
Some chemotherapy drugs have more side effects than others. Some of them cause infertility in men who were treated with cancer drugs when they were children. High doses of other chemotherapy drugs can have a toxic effect on the liver, the heart, the kidneys or the bone marrow. Large studies done overseas, where extensive research is done in the field of side effects and effectiveness of new chemotherapy drugs, enable units such as those at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and the Tygerberg Hospital to adjust their treatment protocols immediately in order to use new drugs in the best combinations with the least side effects.
The Red Cross Children’s Hospital and the Tygerberg Hospital can, at this point, still afford the best and latest chemotherapy drugs, thereby ensuring the highest possible survival rate for children who have cancer.
Typical symptoms that should alert parents that something bigger may be wrong, such as Cancer, include the following:
- A lump, such as gland in the neck, under the arms, in the groin, or a larger mass in the abdomen that does not disappear
- A slight spotted rash consisting of small blood specks on the child’s body
- Blood in the urine or the stools
- Headaches in the mornings that cause nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the bones, without the child having any sign of injury
- Persistent fever, the origin of which remains a mystery
- Sudden weight-loss
- Unexplained bruises
Parents should take these symptoms seriously. Exhaustion, contrary to what one would expect, is not a symptom of cancer in children.
Posted on 7 September, 2016, in Blog and tagged brain cancer, cancer, Cancer Survivor, cancer treatment, Cancer Trust, Child Cancer Awareness, childhood cancer, Childhood Cancer Awareness, Children with Cancer, Little Fighters, paediatric cancer, pediatric cancer awareness, south africa. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.