As success increases in the battle against infectious diseases like pneumonia, TB, HIV and malaria, cancer is going to become one of the important life-threatening diseases in childhood, explains Professor Alan Davidson, the head of Haematology-Oncology at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.
Cancer is emerging as one of the most important causes of chronic disease and death in the 21st century. Every year an average of 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer around the world. Nearly 200 000 of them are children under the age of 15 years and 80% of these children live in low and middle income countries. They account for most of the 90 000 deaths.
The Red Cross Children’s Hospital is recognised across Africa as a leading centre for childhood cancer treatment. The 1960’s saw it establish the first dedicated children’s cancer service in South Africa. With International Childhood Cancer Day coming up on 15 February, it’s these milestones that are significant.
“The oncology unit diagnoses about 130 new cases per year, all of whom have access to highly skilled multi-disciplinary teams of diagnosticians, surgeons, oncologists, radiotherapists and allied health professionals,” Davidson explains.
While prevention strategies such as anti-smoking campaigns are not as easy implement or as appropriate as they are for adult cancers, Davidson says that early diagnosis is critical. It can lead to better outcomes with fewer complications.
“Everyone has a stake in that … parents, teachers and other members of the community, the media and health care workers at all levels. Cancer awareness can save a life.”
Working at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital has been a rewarding one for Davidson for two reasons: building long-term relationships with the family as a whole as well as experiencing the way that “children bounce back from illness and embrace wonder and joy so effortlessly”.
Thanks to your generosity and donations, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital has celebrated its 60th birthday, giving childhood back to sick and injured children from all over Africa for over six decades.
The Saint Siluan Early Warning signs:
Adapted by the Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa (CHOC) and drawn up by the South African Childhood Cancer Study Group as well as adopted by the International Society of Paediatric Oncology, the following are early warning signs for possible childhood cancer:
- 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 and glands
- UNEXPLAINED: Prolonged fever overs two weeks, loss of weight, 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, enlarged head
Read Cancer patient Amani’s story here