Today is International Childhood Cancer Day and according to SA Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR), 800 out of 1000 children are diagnosed with Cancer in South Africa annually. More than half of cancer cases, however, go undiagnosed.
Dr Charlotte Ingram, Medical Director at the SA Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR), said SA has among the highest childhood cancer mortality rates with two thirds of children never reaching a specialist treatment centre and when they do, their cancer is often at an advanced stage.
She added that eight in ten African children with cancer die without access to adequate care. Despite SA having an established oncology healthcare service, its infrastructure is overburdened, which is further impeded by low cancer awareness in the primary healthcare setting and widespread service delivery challenges.
She said unlike adult cancers, childhood cancer is difficult to prevent or screen for because the causative genetic and environmental factors are less understood, but if it is detected early, most children can be treated successfully.
“Knowing what the early warning signs are is vital in order for treatment to commence as soon as possible.”
Two of the most common childhood cancers in South Africa are Leukemia and Lymphoma.
Leukemia is caused by a rise in the number of white blood cells in the body and accounts for a quarter of all childhood cancer cases in the country. Early symptoms include chronic fatigue, bone and joint pain, weakness, easy bleeding or bruising, recurrent nosebleeds, swollen lymph nodes, fever and unexplained weight-loss.
Lymphoma is triggered by tumours that begin in the lymph glands, the spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow and can affect other organs throughout the body as well. Look out for painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin, persistent fatigue, fever, night sweats, weight-loss and itchy skin.
“At the moment, SA’s overall childhood cancer survival rate is at an unacceptably low 52%, nearly 30% less than in developed nations.”
Do your bit by helping the SABMR spread awareness around childhood cancer this month by sharing its social media posts with family and friends:
If you are between the ages of 16 and 45 and want to become a donor, contact the SABMR on 021 447 8638 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Financial donations can also be made via www.sabmr.co.za/donate to help boost funds for their Patient Assistance Programme.