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Paediatricians call for early detection, treatment of cancer in children

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Some pediatricians have called for more proactive steps to curb and manage cancer in children.

They noted that early detection and treatment of cancer in children remain crucial to achieving good treatment outcomes.

The paediatricians noted that children are susceptible to cancer, even though knowledge about it is poor in this clime.

They stressed that contrary to the assumption that cancer mainly afflicts only adults, the condition is also diagnosed in children.

The paediatricians spoke with PUNCH HealthWise in commemoration of the 2023 World Health Organisation Day on International Childhood Cancer.

The day is marked on February 15 every year and is dedicated to raising awareness and showing support for children and adolescents suffering from cancer.

The experts, Senior Consultant Paediatrician, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Dr. Olayinka Ibrahim, and Head of Department, Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, Lafia, Nasarawa State, Dr. Taofik Ogunkunle said that some genetic factors are responsible for children having cancer.

Dr. Ibrahim said the most common childhood cancers in Nigeria include leukaemia (blood cancer), lymphomas, cancer of the eyes (retinoblastoma), cancer of the kidney (nephroblastoma), and bone cancers.

He said, “Like most cancers, the exact causes remain unknown. However, the presence of some factors/events increases the chance of a child having cancer.

“For example, inheritance of some genetic factors from the parents has been linked to retinoblastoma and nephroblastoma. A family history of cancer has been linked to an increased risk of a child having cancer. Other risk includes exposure to ionising radiations.”

On the appropriate intervention for childhood cancer, he said, “Treatment of childhood cancers also follows standards protocol/guidelines like adults. Some of the main modalities of treatments include chemotherapy, surgical removal, and radiotherapy. The modalities of treatment are determined by the type of cancer.”

He, however, reiterated that like in most cancers, early detection is crucial to achieving good treatment outcomes.

“Children can overcome cancer if detected early with appropriate intervention. However, the late presentation of the condition makes the treatment outcomes poor. That is why those with some family history of cancer should have their child screened periodically. They should also avoid ionising radiation”.

Dr. Ogunkunle said that common cancers in children include Leukemias, lymphomas, nephroblastoma (Wilms tumour), brain cancers, retinoblastoma, neuroblastoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and bone cancers.

He said, “Cancer results from a genetic mutation within the cells which then results in abnormal unregulated growth of the affected cell. These mutations can be inherited from parents or acquired.

“Environmental exposures to heavy metals, radiations, certain infections, and pesticides have been implicated in the cause of genetic mutations, so also additives used as food preservatives”.

He reiterated the need for the early detection of cancer in children, noting that early diagnosis of the condition could help to save the child’s life.

“Certain cancers can be cured if detected early and before it spreads to other parts of the body (i.e., metastasis). However, if cancer has spread to vital organs of the body, the outcome is usually poor. That is why we often stress the need for early diagnosis and prompt treatment”.

“It is also why we urge our people to embrace healthy eating and prevention of harmful environmental exposures. People should eat fresh food rather than ultra-processed fruits and vegetables,” he said.

A study published online by Nursing Answers, an online health information platform, noted that early detection of cancer in children remains crucial to ensuring a cure for the ailment.



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