Childhood Cancer Facts
The cancers that affect children are generally unique to those that affect adults and the incidence of childhood cancer is 150 in a million worldwide. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer currently cause 63 per cent of all disease related deaths worldwide and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that deaths from NCDs will increase by a further 17 per cent in the next decade. In Africa, that number will jump by 24 per cent. With an estimated population of 41 million people, Tanzania would expect to see as many as 2,300 new cases of childhood cancer each year
Types of Cancer
The cancers that affect children most often occur in the developing cells like bone marrow, blood, kidneys and nervous system tissues. The most common cancer is leukaemia followed by brain and a wide variety of other tumours. Life-threatening blood disorders include aplastic anaemia, thalassemia and ITP.
Types of Treatment
Childhood cancers require specialist paediatric treatment by a paediatric oncologist and comprise of chemotherapy, surgery or radiation. In some cases a combination of these treatments is used while bone marrow or stem cell transplantation is done in certain situations.
The Tanzania Situation
In Tanzania, one snap-shot survey conducted among admitted patients showed that it takes an average 2.9 months from when a sick child is first taken to see a health professional until they are referred to the cancer ward. This has extreme negative effects on survival. For example, a staggering 40% of referrals of children with Leukaemia die within two days of arriving because they have been referred too late. In addition, an estimated 50-60% of cases of childhood cancer are not being diagnosed at all.
As a result, we strongly advocate and encourage all efforts that lead to the early detection of childhood cancer. As, with early detection, the prognosis for cure is very positive.