Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is recognized every year in September to raise awareness about childhood cancer, honor young cancer patients and survivors, and advocate for increased support for research and treatments.
UHAPO Healthcare Services serves this month as a reminder that children are not immune to cancer and that more needs to be done to improve their quality of life by finding better treatments and outcomes. It also emphasizes the importance of providing emotional, social, and financial support to families dealing with the crucial challenges of childhood cancer.
Cancer in Children
Every year, over 3 lakh children are diagnosed with Cancer all over the world. And in India, more than 50,000 new childhood cancer cases are reported yearly, making it one of the deadliest cancers in children. It is the fifth leading cause of death among children between the ages of 5 and 14 years.
Children can develop various types of cancers, but some of the most common include leukemia (cancer of the blood and bone marrow), brain and central nervous system tumors, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor (kidney cancer), lymphoma, and sarcomas (bone and soft tissue cancers). These cancers are distinct from the types more commonly seen in adults.
The risk factors are often linked to smoking or exposure to environmental toxins. Genetic factors also play a major role in some cases. However, the exact cause of childhood cancer is still not identified.
The treatments for childhood cancer depend on the type and stage of the cancer but often include a combination of therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. Many childhood cancers have high survival rates, and recent advances in research and treatment have improved outcomes significantly. However, some types of pediatric cancer can be very aggressive and difficult to treat.
Ongoing research efforts are done to better understand the causes of pediatric cancer, improve treatment options, and long-term side effects reduction. Pediatric oncology is one such field dedicated to addressing the unique needs of children with cancer.
Also, childhood cancer not only affects a child but also creates a profound impact on the entire family. In such times, emotional support, counseling, and access to support services are critical for both the child and their loved ones.
Cancer in Teens
Cancer in teenagers is often referred to as adolescent or teen cancer. It shares some similarities with childhood cancer but also has unique characteristics and considerations.
Adolescents can develop various types of cancer including those seen in both children and adults. Some common types of teen cancers are leukemia, lymphoma, bone cancers (e.g. – Osteosarcoma or Ewing sarcoma), brain tumors, thyroid cancer, and germ cell tumors. The specific type of cancer can vary by age and gender in teenagers.
The causes of cancer in teenagers are often not well understood. The risk factors that are commonly associated are genetic factors, exposure to certain environmental toxins, and other unknown factors that may contribute. Some cancer types in teens are also associated with genetic predispositions (i.e. developing a particular disease based on a person’s genetic makeup).
Treatment for teen cancer is tailored on the basis of individual needs and may also involve a team of medical specialists.
The prognosis for teen cancer varies depending on the type, stage, and response to treatment. Some teen cancers have relatively high survival rates while others can be more aggressive and challenging to treat.
A cancer diagnosis during adolescence can be particularly challenging due to the unique social and developmental needs of teenagers. Adolescents may struggle with issues related to body image, self-esteem, peer relationships, and school.
Teen cancer is a complex and emotionally challenging experience, and it requires a holistic approach that addresses not only the medical aspects but also the psychosocial and emotional needs of adolescents.
Advances in cancer research and treatment can continue to improve outcomes and the quality of life for teenagers diagnosed with cancer.
Guide to Childhood Cancer
A guide to childhood cancer is a valuable resource for parents, caregivers, and anyone interested in understanding and supporting children who have been diagnosed with cancer. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you navigate childhood cancer –
Understanding Childhood Cancer
- Types of Childhood Cancers – Familiarize yourself with the different types of childhood cancers including leukemia, brain tumors, lymphomas, bone cancers, and others.
- Causes and Risk Factors – Learn about potential causes and risk factors for childhood cancer. However, keep in mind that many cases have no known cause.
- Diagnosis – Understand how childhood cancer is diagnosed through medical evaluations, blood tests, imaging studies, and biopsies.
- Staging – Learn about cancer staging which determines the extent of the disease and helps guide treatment decisions.
- Multidisciplinary Care – Children with cancer often receive care from a team of specialists, including pediatric oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, and more.
- Treatment Modalities – Explore the various treatment options, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.
- Treatment Planning – Understand how treatment plans are tailored to the specific type and stage of cancer based on the individual needs of the child.
- Side Effects – Be aware of potential side effects of cancer treatments and how they can be managed. This includes short-term and long-term side effects.
- Recognize the emotional challenges faced by children with cancer and their families. Seek support from counselors, therapists, or support groups.
- Understand the impact of cancer on a child’s education and work with educators to ensure appropriate accommodations and support.
- Help children maintain friendships and navigate social interactions during cancer treatment.
- Consider the needs of siblings, who may also be affected by their brother or sister’s diagnosis.
- Encourage open and honest communication with the child about their diagnosis and treatment. Use age-appropriate language.
- Maintain a sense of routine and normalcy as much as possible to provide stability during treatment.
- Lean on family, friends, and community resources for emotional and practical support.
- Remember to take care of yourself as a caregiver. It’s essential to address your own well-being to support the child better.
Long-Term Care and Survivorship
- Follow-Up Care – Understand the importance of long-term follow-up care, even after treatment has ended, to monitor for any potential late effects or recurrence.
- Survivorship Care Plans – Work with healthcare providers to develop survivorship care plans that address the child’s ongoing health needs.
Advocacy and Awareness
- Get involved in childhood cancer advocacy efforts to raise awareness, promote research, and improve support for children and families.
- Participate in activities and campaigns during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to advocate for increased treatment and care.
There are many organizations and websites dedicated to childhood cancer that can provide valuable information and assistance. Some well-known resources you can refer to for guidance and support are –
The Indian Cancer Society which is involved in various cancer-related activities including awareness, early detection, and support services for cancer patients.
Tata Memorial Hospital, one of India’s leading cancer treatment centers, offers specialized care for pediatric cancer patients.
Childhood Cancer International (CCI) India is a global network of parent organizations for children with cancer. They provide resources and support for families dealing with childhood cancer.
Cancer Aid and Research Foundation (CARF) – CARF is an organization that provides financial assistance, medication, and support to cancer patients, including children.
These organizations and hospitals can provide valuable information, support, and assistance for families dealing with childhood cancer in India. However, it is always necessary to consult with healthcare professionals and pediatric oncologists for the best guidance and treatment options for your childcare.