September was the gold ribbon month - marked as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month; this is a time when globally, countries honour and remember children and families affected by this rare disease, and help rally awareness on the early warning signs of childhood Cancer. CHOC Childhood Cancer foundation SA encouraged all South Africans to “Go for Gold” by purchasing the gold ribbon from the online CHOC Store or our office. The ribbon was to be worn throughout the month of September. This went a long way in highlighting the disease and showing support to those battling cancer around the country.
CHOC KwaZulu-Natal Region created awareness about this campaign through the Pay it Forward Tea which was also a fundraising launch. Several awareness programmes were also held, four interviews at regional radio stations and published several articles in the community newspapers.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine the types of cancers that develop in children are often different from those diagnosed in adults. Adults commonly suffer from lung, breast, colon and prostate cancer, whereas children suffer from leukaemia (cancer of the blood), brain tumours, retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye), rhabdomyosarcoma (cancer of soft tissue), Ewing sarcoma (bone cancer) and many others. Childhood cancers are often the result of DNA changes in cells and unlike many cancers in adults, childhood cancers are not strongly linked to lifestyle or environmental risk factors, therefore no preventative measure can be taken. Early detection creates a better chance of survival.
Globally, for a rare disease, childhood cancer is on the rise. New estimates by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) show that the global occurrence of childhood cancer is higher than previously assessed. Worldwide, approximately 215 000 cancers are diagnosed per year in those younger than 15 years and about 85 000 cancers in those aged 15-19 years. This means globally, 300 000 parents across all ages, ethnic groups and socio-economic conditions will be hearing the words “your child has cancer”.
Many childhood cancers have a higher survival rates when diagnosed early. Unfortunately, childhood cancers are sometimes overlooked or misdiagnosed because early symptoms are mistakenly attributed to more common injuries or illnesses such as constant headaches, mumps and new squint and more detailed in the early warning signs of Childhood Cancer,
The early warning of childhood cancer were developed by the South African Children's Cancer Study Group (SACCSG) and adopted by the International Society of Paediatric Oncology known as the St Siluan signs.
Saint Siluan Early WARNING SIGNS of Childhood Cancer
- SEEK: Medical help for early, persistent symptoms.
- (I) EYE: White spots in the eye, new squint, blindness, bulging eyeball.
- LUMP: In the abdomen, pelvis, head, neck, limbs, testes, glands.
- UNEXPLAINED: Fever, loss of appetite and weight, pallor, fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding.
- ACHING: Bones, back and easy fractures.
- NEUROLOGICAL: Change in behaviour, gait and milestones, headaches, enlargement of head.
Leaflets detailing these early warning signs were also distributed to the schools and corporates. This campaign was also made visible at the wards to encourage and give hope to those diagnosed with the disease.
The early warning signs are also shared through the CHOC Awareness Programme, which includes training health care workers, traditional healers, and communities in detecting these vital early warning signs. To date CHOC has trained nearly 5 000 people in Gauteng and neighbouring provinces alone, which has led to a noticeable increase in referrals. In 2017 we begin training in KZN.
Thank you to all those who supported Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – ‘Go gold’, for the future of our precious children is not to be compromised.