The cancers that affect children are generally unique to those that affect adults and the incidence of childhood cancer is 150 in a million worldwide. In South Africa, one in 600 hundred children is affected by cancer before the age of 16. The encouraging news is that if diagnosed early, 70%-85% of children can be cured.
TYPES OF CANCER
The cancers that affect children most often occur in the developing cells like bone marrow, blood, kidneys and nervous system tissues. The most common cancer is leukaemia followed by brain and a wide variety of other tumours. Life-threatening blood disorders include aplastic anaemia, thalassaemia and ITP.
TYPES OF TREATMENT
Childhood cancers require specialist paediatric treatment by a paediatric oncologist and comprise of chemotherapy, surgery or radiation. In some cases a combination of these treatments is used while bone marrow or stem cell transplantation is done in certain situations.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN SITUATION
In South Africa, less than half of the children are diagnosed early enough and reach a treatment centre in time. Many are diagnosed too late with an advanced stage of cancer for the treatment to have much chance of success and half are never diagnosed and so receive no treatment.
As a result, we strongly advocate and encourage all efforts that lead to the early detection of childhood cancer. As, with early detection, the prognosis for cure is very positive.