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Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is recognized as the Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness against childhood cancer, the leading cause of death among children. ZenOnco.io joins cancer organizations all around the world in promoting awareness against the disease and in encouraging funds for research and safer treatments.

Also Read: How To Promote Cancer Awareness At Work

Globally, there are more than 700 children diagnosed with cancer each day. In the US, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer each day, while five children die of it every day. Awareness is the key ingredient in the fight against any disease, as only through awareness, does the public come to know about it, its symptoms, and the need for extensive research to improve the treatment procedures and facilities. The records are a testament to this fact, as ever since research in this field was promoted, the five-year survival rates of those with childhood cancer have risen from 61% in 1975 to 84% in 2019. But these numbers should not provide a false sense of security as there is still much more to be done in this field. Several subtypes of childhood cancer don't have a successful treatment procedure yet. While the most common childhood cancer, lymphoblastic leukemia, has a five-year survival rate of 90%, the same of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a type of childhood brain tumor, is less than 5 %. Thus, there is much more to go before childhood cancer can be reduced to the form of an easily treatable disease.

Thus, it is to bring these realities of childhood cancer to public awareness and to emphasize the importance of life-saving research, that September is recognized as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Childhood Cancer Awareness

Childhood cancer is not a single type of cancer, but a collection of several cancers that are commonly seen in children below the age of 20. The most common malignancies are blood cancers, with leukemia accounting for about 30% and lymphomas accounting for around 8% of all pediatric cancers. The next most common cancer is the tumors in the brain and central nervous systems, which account for around 26 %. Other solid tumors include neuroblastoma, bone tumors, Wilms tumor, and retinoblastoma.

Childhood Cancer Symptoms

Childhood cancer symptoms are hard to recognize, as they are often similar to those of usual childhood illnesses such as common flu or infections. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that parents should consult a doctor if any of the symptoms persist for longer than they should for a common cold, or if they get worse. Some of the common symptoms of childhood cancer can include:

  • Unusual lump or swelling
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Frequent headaches
  • Pale skin or excessive skin rashes
  • Unexplained fever and fatigue
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss

These symptoms also differ according to the type of cancer. Parents must consult a pediatrician who has expertise in recognizing the symptoms that come under the normal range of symptoms for diseases such as the common cold, and those that do not.

Childhood Cancer Causes

Unlike in adults, where lifestyle habits and environmental risk factors are strongly linked to the advent of cancer, cancer in children is often due to DNA mutations and genetic disorders. Cancer in adults is usually due to years of exposure to factors such as smoking, alcohol, obesity, unhealthy diets, insufficient exercise, and unhealthy environments. But these aren't linked to childhood cancers, and thus there are no lifestyle changes that can be made to prevent cancer.

Most leukemia is not linked to any genetic causes; having a parent who develops leukemia as an adult doesn't increase the child's risk of the disease. However, some genetic factors increase the risk, such as a weak immune system. Some DNA mutation occurs even before the birth of the child, showing that babies can be born with cancer. Failed bone marrow transplantation and being treated for another cancer also increase the risk of leukemia.

Also Read: Why is Breast Cancer Awareness Important?

Need for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer is predominantly a disease that affects older people. The median age of cancer diagnosis is 66 years with one-fourth of new cancer cases diagnosed in people between the age of 65 to 74. Due to this, the majority are unaware of the enormity of childhood cancer, as it often gets overlooked. In the US, only 4% of the total funding for cancer research is devoted to pediatric cancer, which is a small percentage because every child cured of cancer has years of productive life ahead of them.

Another fact is the need for research to bring down the side effects of the treatment. Research shows that more than 95% of childhood cancer survivors have treatment-related health issues, of which 32% have severe, disabling, or life-threatening side effects. This is a grave number that needs to be reduced in the coming years.

Gold ribbon: It is used to spread awareness about childhood cancer. The color symbolizes the resiliency of the young cancer warriors. Along with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, February 15th is recognized as Childhood Cancer Day to bring more awareness to the disease. All over the world, people have started to take notice of childhood cancer and have begun to Go Gold during September. It is high time that we join these movements to increase awareness of the need for more research and safer treatments and cures.

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