Aggie Govender of Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa says identifying and responding to early detection of childhood cancer is crucial. Cancer stigma and myths are prevalent among ethnic groups which result in not wanting to acknowledge a child may have a type of cancer. The stigmatization around knowing combined with superstition belief makes it harder for families to accept it.
According to South African Children’s Cancer Study Group (SACCSG) statistics, for the period between 2009 to 2013, the five foremost childhood cancers in South Africa are,
- lymphoma (tumours that begin in the lymph glands)
- brain tumours
- nephroblastomas or Wilms tumours – cancer of the kidneys
- soft tissue sarcomas (tumours that begin in the connective tissue)
Identifying and responding to early detection signs of childhood cancer is crucial for parents. These are the sentiments of regional manager of the Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa KZN’s Aggie Govender. September marks “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month” that brings to focus on the importance of education surrounding the disease to prevent undiagnosed deaths. Govender says although childhood cancer is relatively rare, the incidence rate has been increasing,
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According to the South African Medical Journal¹ the overall survival rates for childhood cancer in South Africa remain low, when compared to international data. Greater awareness of the warning signs of childhood cancer can encourage earlier diagnosis and lead to improved outcomes for all ethnic groups. Many childhood cancers are treatable with high treatment success rates between 70% and 80% in well-resourced countries, while approximately 80% of children with cancer in Africa die without access to adequate care.
Whilst South Africa has an established oncology healthcare service, the infrastructure is overburdened, the cancer awareness in the primary healthcare service is poor, and widespread service delivery challenges exist.
A 2014 research paper carried in Stones, David K., et al. entitled “Childhood cancer survival rates in two South African units”, quotes South African overall survival rates at 52.1%. ¹
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