The International Childhood Cancer Awareness Day is celebrated every year on February 15 to raise awareness about childhood cancer, and to express support for children and adolescents with cancer, the survivors and their families.
Cancer is one of the most traumatic health concerns around the world and if diagnosed in children it is more disturbing and distressing.
Every year, an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 new cases of childhood cancer are detected in India, among which leukemia is the most common. As many as around 35-40 percent cases are leukemia.
What is leukemia?
The word ‘leukemia’ literally means white blood, just like the disease where abnormal white bloods are produced creating problems, while compromising the overall health.
Leukemia is highly curable if detected early, the survival rate in developed nations is as high as 80-90 percent.
Yet, in India, the survival rate is as low as 33 percent, majorly because of factors like – lack of awareness that leukemia is curable, insufficient funds and late detection.
Apart from this many myths have created turmoil in people’s mind about childhood cancer.
Every year, an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 new cases of childhood cancer are detected in India, among which leukemia is the most common.
Here are 10 myths about childhood cancer busted that will help families combat it better:
#1 Myth – Children with cancer lose all reason for living
Fact: Children with cancer can lead normal childhood. Many children return to normal school life after treatment.
In other cases, the children and their families adapt and modify their lifestyle to achieve normalcy. This becomes easier with care, understanding and support from family, teachers, friends and other caregivers.
#2 Myth – Childhood cancer is a death sentence
Fact: Most childhood cancers are curable. For example, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia which is a common form of leukemia, 3 in 4 children can be cured by chemotherapy alone.
A successful cure depends on being detected on time and receiving the proper treatment.
#3 Myth – Childhood cancer is hereditary
Fact: There is no known cause for most childhood cancers.
Since the triggers of the most childhood cancer are unknown, preventive measures are limited, thus far, studies suggest that there is nothing a child or parent has done to induce cancer, and therefore, should avoid doing in order to prevent childhood cancer.
#4 Myth – Cancer is contagious and can spread like flu
Fact: Cancer is not contagious and it cannot spread from one child to another.
Children with cancer wear a mask to protect themselves as their immunity is low and they are vulnerable to infections.
#5 Myth – Survivors are disease carriers and health risk to others. Cultural beliefs that Cancer is related to evil spirits and bewitchment.
Fact: Childhood cancer is not contagious. Childhood cancer is not transmitted by a virus nor it is infectious. It is safe to interact with Survivors.
#6 Myth Cancer survivors have a short life
Fact: Two out of 3 childhood cancer survivors may have increased risk of late effects or secondary cancers depending upon the kind of cancer; however, this is not linked to life expectancy.
#7 Myth – All survivors are genetically inferior and have fertility problems, they can never have children
Fact: Some survivors may have fertility and reproduction issues, but this isn’t true for many survivors, as the type of cancer and its treatment determines if they’ll have any fertility challenges.
#8 Childhood cancer survivors are cured survivors who no longer need any follow up care
Fact: Continuing follow up care remains important for survivors. They are at higher risk for secondary cancers or chronic health conditions related to their initial cancer treatment.
Vigilance and regular monitoring are important for early identification and treatment of any health challenge for impairment.
#9 Myth – Chemotherapy makes the child lose hair permanently
Fact: Hair loss due to chemotherapy is temporary.
#10 Myth – Childhood cancer is Rare
Fact: Every 3 minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer worldwide.
– Article by Monica Vohra (The author is the mother of a childhood leukemia survior and founder of Leukemia Crusaders’ a trust that supports children suffering with the disease and ensures that no child has to give up the right of treatment for lack of funds.)