‘Awareness on paediatric cancers lagging behind’




AWARENESS of paediatric cancers still lags behind, with many parents and guardians failing to notice their symptoms.

This is despite that childhood cancers are often severe and require a lot of effort in managing them.

Lovemore Makurirofa from the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe (CAZ) yesterday told NewsDay that although the figures on paediatric cancer were still modest, contributing around 3% of the total cases of cancer, it was imperative to continue raising awareness on the disease to the public.

September is the month for raising awareness of paediatric cancers.

“Childhood cancers are often very severe, but if diagnosed early they can be treated. Children respond very well to chemotherapy, but many patients present late,” Makurirofa said.

He said there were still misconceptions around chemotherapy, which resulted in late presentation of cases of childhood and adult cancers.

“People either delay in presenting for initial diagnosis, or when they do, and are positive, they delay again because they are discouraged by the cost of treatment,” he said.

In private care, the cost of a course of chemotherapy is between $1 000 and $2 000, including extras such as admissions and specialist tests fees.

When identified early, cancer is more likely to respond to treatment and there is a greater probability of survival, less suffering, and often less expensive and less intensive treatment.

“While it is a fact that cancer risks increase with age, we cannot ignore childhood cancers. As CAZ, we conduct awareness and there are now a few organisations, like Kidzcan, that are solely focusing on childhood cancers,” he said.

Some common types of cancers diagnosed in children aged between 0 and 14 years are leukaemia, cancer of the brain and central nervous system tumours, and lymphomas.

According to Kidzcan, an organisation dedicated to increasing the survival rate of children with cancer, last year, 70 children succumbed to the malignant disease in the country.

Zimbabwe diagnoses around 5 000 new cancer cases annually, according to the national cancer registry, but the figure could be more as many patients do not present themselves for regular screening.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened access to screening and treatment for cancer patients, especially during lockdowns.

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