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Childhood Cancer: Raising Awareness, Saving Lives

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Associate Professor Mark Hendricks of the University of Cape Town (UCT) is leading an important national call to action. Raise much-needed awareness about childhood cancer to advance early diagnosis and treatment and improve outcomes for children living with cancer in our country. Continent and around the world.

Associate Professor Hendricks, a pediatric oncologist at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, a UCT teaching hospital, made this urgent and impassioned plea during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month observed in September.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 400,000 children and adolescents develop cancer each year. In high-income countries with easy access to care and services, more than 80% of her children with cancer are cured. However, it is a different case scenario for children in low- to middle-income countries, where less than 30% are reported to survive the disease. This is often the result of lack of diagnosis, misdiagnosis, delay in diagnosis, or impaired access to care in resource-constrained settings.

“The sooner the medical team can make a diagnosis, the better.”

“The importance of seeking help early cannot be overemphasized. The sooner the medical team makes a diagnosis, the better. This means that there is little, if any, need for less intensive treatment, with a much higher chance of survival.

tell the story

The most common cancers in South African children are leukemia and malignant brain tumors, both affecting 30% of children. Additionally, pediatric oncologists at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital frequently treat children with malignant tumors of the bones, muscles, nerves, eyes, kidneys and liver, as well as testes and ovaries.

“Although research in this area is ongoing, the cause of cancer is still unknown. [cancer types contain] Although it is a identifiable genetic abnormality, its cause varies from tumor to tumor. He’s not the one identifiable anomaly in all cancers,” Hendricks said.

He highlighted some important signs that parents and caregivers should be aware of for children of all ages that may indicate early signs of cancer.

  • unexplained bleeding and unusually pale skin
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • Unexplained mass (growth)
  • Unrelieved bone pain that travels from one area to another and wakes the child at night
  • Persistent high fever, loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Eye defects – forward-projecting eyes, acute onset of strabismus, and loss of light reflex
  • Neurological Defects – Weakness on one side of the body, recurrent morning headaches, vomiting and seizures.

Therapeutic invasion

Encouragingly, Hendricks said scientists and clinicians have made great strides in improving childhood cancer outcomes in the last few decades. He added that it could be directly attributed to the joint research effort he led. While many important advances have been made over time, Hendricks said the field of medicine is constantly evolving. said. One of his most exciting research developments to come to light recently involves the molecular reclassification of disease. This process enables clinicians to use tumor molecular signatures to classify risks associated with cancer types, accurately predict prognosis, and select the most appropriate treatment for patients.

In addition, breakthrough developments in surgical and radiotherapy techniques and improved supportive care, such as advanced chemotherapy and pediatric intensive care support, have equally contributed to improved national, continental and global outcomes. Interestingly, Hendricks also notes that while treatment components such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery are similar in both children and adults, treatment protocols are very different.

“Because children metabolize chemotherapy very differently, they can tolerate much more intensive treatment than adults. and it’s very promising,” he said.

meaningful contribution

Hendricks told South Africans, South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) To help patients who need bone marrow transplants. SABMR helps hundreds of South Africans, both children and adults, with blood diseases such as leukemia find bone marrow donors. The organization searches for donor matches locally and internationally.

“Registering to be a donor is an opportunity to make a wonderful, selfless and meaningful contribution to the health of both children and adults here at home and abroad. It’s a great way to make a difference,” he said.



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