Call to spread childhood cancer awareness
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Pretoria - The Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa has urged communities to collaborate with health-care workers and non-profit organisations to spread awareness of the importance of early diagnosis.
It launched Gold September to mark the annual worldwide campaign aiming to raise increased awareness of childhood cancer.
The organisation’s spokesperson, Tarryn Seegers, said cancer remained a leading cause of mortality in children.
Seegers said the most common childhood cancer worldwide and in South Africa was leukaemia, which accounted for about one-third of all cases. The next most common were brain tumours and lymphomas, followed by embryonal tumours and sarcomas.
“This month we will be spreading the message of early warning signs and creating awareness around these. Early detection and timeous referral to a specialised treatment centre saves lives,” she said.
“Gauteng has the highest population, and therefore the highest number of cases (a third of the population). It’s followed by the Western Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu Natal. Children are sometimes referred to units for specialised treatment and may travel across provincial borders,” said Seegers.
The South African Children’s Tumour Registry reports about 1 000 new cases a year for children under the age of 16, a marked increase from 10 years ago.
Survival rates in high-income countries reach an average of 85% and are steadily improving, even in less-resourced areas of the world, where there are integrated programmes, the registry said.
“But, the survival rate of cancer in children in South Africa is around 55% and is seemingly on the rise.”
Seegers said patients under 5 years were mostly affected by neuroblastoma and Wilms (kidney) tumor, while retinoblastoma was most common in children under 1 year old and also the first 5 years.
“A malignant tumour of the retina is called retinoblastoma. In about two-thirds of cases, only one eye (unilateral disease) is affected. Sometimes a tumour develops in the other eye months after the first diagnosis.
“Osteogenic sarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer in children. Most patients are between 10 and 20 years old, when they are undergoing the growth spurt at puberty.”