The month of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month You don’t need to be a saint to beat cancer. Each cancer survivor and fighter must remember that the disease does not have to destroy love, deprive hope, or crush one’s spirit. Although the disease can cause severe emotional distress for both parents and children, creating a positive atmosphere and following the right procedures can help parents to navigate the difficulties with calmness and serenity while caring for their child through difficult times. Dr Stalin Ramprakash, Consultant – Paediatric Haematology, Oncology & BMT, Aster CMI Hospital, shares the right thing every parent must know about childhood cancer.
The Most Common Types of Childhood Cancer
The most common types of cancer among children are:
Tumours in the brain and spinal chord
Wilms tumor of the kidney
Lymphoma (Hodgkin or Non-Hodgkin).
Childhood Cancers: Causes
Most cases of cancer can be attributed to a single cause. Some factors may increase your risk of developing cancer.
- Environmental Factors – Radiation exposure can often cause multiple types of childhood cancers, as has been shown. Children can also be affected if their parents smoke or are passive smokers.
- Genetic Modifications Many times, cancer cells are formed when the DNA of cells is changed. Most children inherit their DNA from their parents. This can increase their chance of certain types of cancer.
- Womb Cancer Rarely, cancerous tissue may form in the womb. These cells are still present in the womb but become active when the child is born. They then transform into cancerous tumors.
- Lifestyle After many years, children can suffer from unhealthy lifestyles like obesity, poor exercise, and careless behavior.
Signs and Symptoms
It is vital to remember that every patient presents different signs and symptoms. If your child has any of these symptoms, you should get them examined by a doctor. The lack of awareness often leads patients to delay diagnosis. It is therefore important to seek out early help. There are many signs and symptoms of cancer.
Lumpy or swelling in the abdomen or neck, chest or pelvis.
Fatigue or lack of energy
Increased bleeding or bruises
Limping without a reason
For many days, fevers and low immunity can lead to poor health.
Pale or dull skin
Infections around the throat, chest, nose, or ears
New onset of squint
Morning headaches and vomiting are common in the early morning.
School performance decline
Recently, difficulty in walking or moving
Bladder dysfunction or bowel dysfunction
There are many tests and treatments available
Despite being the second leading cause for death in children aged 1-14, significant medical advances have resulted in higher survival rates. Most cases of cancer can be successfully treated for children and teens. There are several tests and treatments that can be used to diagnose the disease.
- Blood Tests This helps identify the types of cells present in the child’s blood. If the cells are high, or low, the test can detect which type of cancer.
- Biopsy – Biopsy is the only way to confirm brain cancer diagnosis. The tumour location will dictate the type of biopsy.
- Barrow Marrow Aspiration and biopsy- This test involves the examination of marrow samples and their analysis to determine if there is fatty tissue in the larger bones.
Other tests used by doctors include ultrasound, compound and magnetic resonance imaging, position scanning tomography, radioisotope scans, and lumbar puncture. These tests help to detect any underlying condition.
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation
Steps to Psychological Well-being of Parents
The reality of a child’s illness can often be difficult for family members to grasp. It is crucial to foster a positive, encouraging, and loving environment for the child during times of turmoil. To ensure their well-being in these challenging times, parents need to take the following measures:
- Learn how to educate yourself In these difficult times, ignorance is the greatest enemy. Parents must be prepared with knowledge. It is possible to reduce stress by taking simple steps such as keeping a record of your child’s medical history and other information. It also allows parents to keep up-to date on their child’s treatment and provides information that can help them take care of their child at home.
- You should keep a routine. Parents can cope by following a consistent pattern regarding treatment plans. Although it can take some time to get over the shock of a child’s illness, parents will be able to accept their new normal and carry on with regular activities. These activities can also be used to relieve stress and manage the situation better.
- Counsellors and support groups are available for you. Support groups are a great way to meet other parents who are in the same situation. Parents can benefit from sharing their experiences, tips and other suggestions to boost their morale and help them navigate the journey more effectively and holistically.
Every child should be able to enjoy good health. Although cancer can be difficult to control, it is treatable and is not fatal. Early diagnosis is crucial to ensure the best possible outcome in this race against time. It is crucial to let go of fear and adopt a more caring attitude towards treatment and detection of cancer.
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