1,200 Children In Ghana Are Affected With Childhood Cancers Every Year

International childhood cancer day is a day marked on 15th February to raise awareness about childhood cancers and encourage it's early detection and treatment.

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For this year, there is a call for a concerted global effort to address the growing challenge posed by communicable diseases. The unified message given is ” better access to care for children and adolescents with cancer everywhere “.

Childhood cancer also known as paediatric cancer is found in children. The age of childhood cancers span the range of 0-14years inclusive and sometimes include young adults of 15-19years.

When they are detected early, they can be cured in about 85% of patients. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints coupled with the lack of awareness of the disease and limited access to health services, many children tend to lose their lives to the disease.

In her presentation, Dr. (Mrs) Vivian Paintsil of the Paediatric Oncology Unit at KATH, disclosed that only 1% of cancers in Ghana are childhood cancers and these children have the potential of living longer lives. Ironically, they are not covered by the NHIS.

Adding that in Ghana, about one thousand two hundred (1,200) children below age 15 are affected with childhood cancers every year. And of these, about 350 patients get access to care in the specialized centres and even with those who present at the hospital, 60% present is in the late stages contributing to the greater mortality.

She said where delays have occurred, they are due to such factors as lack of awareness, long distance travels to seek orthodox medical treatment and seeking help from traditional healers before coming to the hospital.

Outlining some of the causes of childhood cancers, Dr. Paintsil noted that, little is known about childhood cancers but there are some associations which increases the risk of it.

This includes environmental factors like the effects of radiation, drugs and chemicals, infection from viruses like hepatitis B and Epstein Barr virus and HIV infections. Again, parental exposure to tobacco and radiation also has an association with the aetiology of childhood cancers. Genetic factors identified in 5-15% of childhood cancer cases are also seen.

Dr. Pentsil again hinted on some of the commonest type of cancers seen in Ghana in the likes of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma and specifically burkitt’s lymphoma. “Other cancers seen are: wilm’s tumour in the kidney, retinoblastoma in the eye, neuroblastoma, leukemia in the blood, osteosarcoma in the bones, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain tumours, rhabdomyosarcoma in the muscle, hepatoblastoma in the liver and germ cell tumours” she added.

And the major signs and symptoms of the eye she said includes; white spots (leucokoria), squint, blindness and a bulging eye. Among others are swellings which mostly occur in the jaw, abdomen, head and neck, the upper and lower limbs. Swellings can as well occur in any part of the body. Also sensorium with headache and early morning vomiting can indicate that the child has cancer.

“They also presents prolonged fevers and weight loss with bleeding, fatigue, pallor and severe bone and back pains” she said.

“Factors leading to delayed reporting also includes the high cost of travel and affordability of cancer treatment, stigmatization also makes some parents feel reluctant bringing their children to the hospital, poor access to good medical advice with the offer od remedies by local healers and some pastors also make presentations too late” she lamented.

Dr. (Mrs) Paintsil called on all Ghanaians that, delay leads to tumour progression with the need for more intensive and toxic drugs and a reduced chance of cure and can ultimately lead to death. “We all need to come together to save these children and also pleaded with the ministry of health and the government that childhood cancer treatment should be factored into the NHIS” Dr. Paintsil.

Present at the program which took place at the Asante Akyem Agogo Presby Centre Hall on 14th February, 2017 with the theme: We Can, I Can, were the Queen mother of Asante Akyem Agogoman hemaa, the Police commander, representatives from the Agogo government hospital and people of the community.

Also present were student representatives of wold childhood cancer awareness from KNUST who presented a choreography, as to how early signs and symptoms of childhood cancers can be detected.

Source: Newsghana.com.gh/Sammy Adjei.

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