Childhood cancer is on the increase in Ghana with only two out of ten children with cancer surviving in the country.
Mr Dennis Ocansey, the Programme Manager of the Non-Communicable Disease Control Programme (NCD) at the Korle-bu Teaching hospital has indicated that childhood cancers have increased in the country over the years.
He said the country has in recent years been recording close to 1,000 childhood cancers annually among children below fifteen years.
Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Mr Ocansey said the causes of many of these childhood cancers were largely unknown but resulted from the genetic predisposition of some patients, environmental factors such as radiation, pesticides and some drugs which increase the risk of developing cancer.
“Common cancers among children nowadays are Lymphomas-cancer of the lymphoid tissues, leukaemia cancer of the blood cells, Retinoblastoma-cancer of the eye, Nephroblastoma-cancer of the kidney, cancers of muscle or bone in different parts of the body as well as brain cancers,” he said.
Nutrition is an important part of the health of all children, but it is especially important for Children with Cancer, who often have poor appetites as a result of the cancer itself, or due to the side-effects of the cancer treatments.
Both cancer and its treatments may affect a child’s appetite, tolerance to foods, and their body’s ability to use nutrients. Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after treatment can help a child feel better and stay stronger.
For parents of Children with Cancer, the challenges of enticing children to eat nutritious, healthy foods are even greater than those faced by parents of healthy children, and require untold levels of patience and creativity to overcome.
Cancer and cancer treatments can also affect the way your child’s body tolerates certain foods and its ability to process, store and appropriately use nutrients at a time when your child’s body needs the energy and nutrients from a healthy diet more than ever.
The nutrient needs of Children with Cancer vary from child to child. Your child’s doctor, nurses, and a registered dietitian can help identify nutrition goals and plan ways to help your child meet them.
Tumours of the elderly, such as breast cancer and colon cancer, accumulate thousands of DNA mutations. These genetic defects contribute to cancer-specific properties including uncontrolled growth, invasion in neighbouring tissues, and evasion from the immune system.
Similar properties are also found in Childhood Cancers, although those tumours carry much fewer genetic defects, making it difficult to explain their clinical heterogeneity.
This is particularly true for Ewing Sarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer in children and adolescents.
A single genetic defect – the EWS-ETS fusion – is present in all tumours, initiating cancer development and defining Ewing sarcoma as a disease, but the tumours carry very few DNA mutations that could explain the observed differences in the disease course of Ewing sarcoma patients.
Tackling this question, a team of scientists from Austria, France, Germany and Spain led by Eleni Tomazou from the St. Anna Children’s Cancer Research Institute in Vienna profiled many Ewing Tumours. They found that the disease’s clinical diversity is reflected by widespread epigenetic heterogeneity.
Steroids occur naturally within our bodies, but can also be made in the laboratory for medical purposes. They help reduce inflammation and control different functions in our bodies such as the immune system or the way the body uses food. One of their key functions is to reduce inflammation/swelling and ease associated symptoms, such as headaches.
When your child has a tumour in their brain it is not only the tumour itself that causes some of the symptoms they may have, but also the swelling surrounding the tumour. This swelling puts pressure on surrounding tissues making the effects of the tumour wider reaching. This pressure can cause symptoms such as headaches, sickness and seizures (fits).
To help reduce the swelling, Children with Cancer may be prescribed steroids such as Prednisone or Dexamethasone as part of their treatment. As steroids are fast-acting drugs this could mean that some of the effects caused by the tumour reduce quite quickly. This does not mean, however, that the size of tumour itself has been reduced.
In an effort to help thousands of children who undergo cancer treatment each year, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the Childhood Cancer STAR (Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research) Act. This bipartisan legislation will advance paediatric cancer research and child-focused cancer treatments, while also improving childhood cancer surveillance, and providing resources for survivors and those impacted by childhood cancer.
“Too many young people’s lives have been cut short by cancer. These kids and their families who’ve battled this disease inspire us to take action. The Childhood Cancer STAR Act will help young cancer patients and their families get access to potentially life-saving treatments, support survivors, and move us another step closer toward our goal of ending pediatric cancer,” said Senator Reed.
“This bipartisan legislation will continue the advances in research, prevention and care for our loved ones and families impacted by childhood cancer,” said Senator Capito. “The Childhood Cancer STAR Act gives parents and patients access to the information they need to make vital decisions about treatment and care post-treatment. This legislation will also give those who understand the unique needs of childhood cancer patients a seat at the table when decisions about cancer care are taking place.”
Cardamom is a peppery, citrusy spice that is native to the evergreen forests of India and is commonly used in Indian cuisine, but it has also made its way into Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for mouth ulcers, digestive problems, and even depression.
According to various studies, cardamom also contains cancer-fighting compounds with the potential to kill cancer cells as well as stunt new cancer cell growth. In India, Cardamom was known as the “Queen of spices” to black pepper’s title as the “King of spices”. Also in India, during the 11th century, it was listed as one of the ingredients in the “Five fragrance betel chew” in the Book of Splendour.
Historically, spices have shaped many events throughout the world. Many voyagers, including the legendary Christopher Columbus, explored the seas in search of treasured spices. These valued commodities contribute not only flavours but also serve as colorants and preservatives in a wide variety of cultures.
In Ayurveda (the ancient Indian science of medicine and lifestyle) and Traditional Chinese Medicine, cardamom was believed to be a remedy for teeth and gum infections, throat problems, congestion of the lungs, pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of the eyelids, gastrointestinal disorders, disintegrating kidney, and gall bladder stones, and was also used as an antidote for poisons and venoms.
A cancer diagnosis brings with it not only pain and treatments, but a complete lifestyle change – there are all the appointments, tests, medications, infusions, scans, special diets, and so on to deal with; time in and out of hospital; fatigue, lethargy, boredom and a change in eating habits…
For children things are worse, because they can often not go to school while under treatment due to their impaired immune systems and possibilities of infection; often they can also not even see their friends and need to keep themselves entertained for days, weeks and even months on end. I mean, adult company is OK, but when you are a child you need to play and need other children around…
The sudden move from health to illness and the unwelcome tests and procedures needed to get a diagnosis can be very frightening for a child, and hospital stays can be a scary and overwhelming experience.
It’s very scary for a child to be told their body is not working right, and that they have cancer and it is completely normal for a child or teen to be afraid of new and often painful experiences.
Despite many successes in treating paediatric cancer, young children remain at high risk for developing severe, long-lasting impairments in their brain, heart, and other vital organs from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In adults, however, these tissues are relatively spared.
This disparity creates a complicated balancing act for doctors – administering doses high enough to have a chance of curing young cancer patients while minimising the risk of long-term cognitive and heart damage.
This “therapeutic window” is particularly narrow in infants and young children compared to adults, whose vital organs are more resilient to intense treatment.
Now, scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute say they have discovered a potential explanation for why brain and heart tissues in very young children are more sensitive to collateral damage from cancer treatment than older individuals. Reporting in Cancer Cell, they show that the tissues in these still-developing organs are more prone to apoptosis, or programmed cell death, when subjected to toxic stresses like chemotherapy and radiation.
Did you know that the artificial turf that your children play on contains carcinogenic materials? Many sports clubs and even schools are using artificial turf for soccer fields, hockey fields and the like these days, and this may be costing your children their health.
Amy Griffin, Associate Head Coach of Women’s Soccer at the University of Washington in Seattle, first began to wonder about artificial turf and cancer in 2009. “We had two goalies from the neighbourhood, and they had grown up and gone to college,” Griffin said. “And then they both came down with lymphoma.
While sitting around socialising, talk turned to why the two had both contracted lymphoma, and someone said, “I wonder if it has something to do with the black dots.”
“Black Dots” are the crumb rubber used in today’s artificial turf fields (and on playgrounds). Those fields are designed to be more pliable than AstroTurf because they’re made from longer synthetic grass surrounded by infill made of ground rubber from used tires, usually mixed with sand.
A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – published on 12th January, 2017 – consolidated all evidence published since 1999 regarding the health impacts associated with cannabis and cannabis-derived products, such as marijuana.
In excess of 10,000 scientific abstracts were considered by the committee that carried out the study and wrote the report in order to reach its nearly 100 conclusions.
The growing accessibility of cannabis and acceptance of its use for recreational purposes have raised important public health concerns. Neither the level of therapeutic benefit offered by the drug nor the risks it carries for causing adverse health effects have been rigorously assessed.
“For years the landscape of marijuana use has been rapidly shifting as more and more states are legalizing cannabis for the treatment of medical conditions and recreational use,” said Marie McCormick, chair of the committee; the Sumner and Esther Feldberg Professor of Maternal and Child Health, department of social and behavioral sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; and professor of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass.
Unfortunately, for Survivors of Childhood Cancer, the risks to their health are not over by any means…
Various studies have shown that Childhood Cancer Survivors may be at increased risk of being obese due to the therapies they underwent to fight the cancer.
Among the strongest predictor of obesity in survivors was childhood obesity, which is also a strong predictor of adult obesity in the general public. Other obesity risk factors were age and childhood cancer treatment.
Obesity rates are especially elevated in Childhood Cancer Survivors who were exposed to cranial radiation, which is used to prevent or delay the spread of cancer to the brain.
In a study published online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, a team led by Carmen Wilson, PhD and Kirsten Ness, PhD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, designed a study to estimate the prevalence of obesity among childhood cancer survivors and to identify the clinical and treatment-related risks for obesity in these individuals. The study also looked for potential genetic factors that might play a role.
A group of South African cancer practitioners has developed a new set of Comprehensive Guidelines to manage chemotherapy treatment and improve patient safety and protect healthcare workers.
Chemotherapy Administration Guidelines was compiled by members of the Independent Clinical Oncology Network (ICON) in consultation with global oncologists and cancer experts to address a substantial gap in South African cancer care protocol. The resource, a first for South Africa, will be released later this month.
According to Dr David Eedes, clinical oncology advisor for ICON, there has never been a single resource document in South Africa that addresses best practice at all three levels of chemotherapy administration:
- The Oncologists who prescribe the medication;
- The Pharmacists who dispense it; and
- The Nurses who administer it.