International Childhood Cancer Day 2022: How Can We Prevent the Disease in Children?

International Childhood Cancer Day 2022: Cancer is not just limited to adults and a large number of children around the globe are diagnosed with the deadly disease every day. According to the World Health Organization, over 4 lakh children and adolescents between the age of 0 to 19 develop different types of cancer every year. To raise awareness about the deadly disease among children and to support its victims and survivors, the Childhood Cancer International (CCI) observes February 15 as the International Childhood Cancer Day every year.

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Unlike in adults, cancer among children do not have many commonly known causes and only a few cancers in children are known to be caused by environmental or lifestyle factors. So how do we prevent its spread? Childhood cancer cannot generally be prevented or identified through the screening. So, their prevention efforts have to be more focused on behaviours that will help the child from developing preventable cancer as an adult.

Chronic infections like HIV, Epstein-Barr virus and malaria, are risk factors for childhood cancer. Other similar infections can also increase a child’s risk of developing cancer as an adult. So, it is important to be vaccinated and prompt in the detection and treatment of chronic infections that can lead to cancer.

The challenge of childhood cancer can effectively be fought by early diagnosis, right treatment and palliative care for the patient. Early diagnosis consists of three key factors:

  • Awareness of symptoms
  • Accurate and timely clinical evaluation, diagnosis, and staging
  • And access to treatment.

In high-income countries where infrastructure is available for the right kind of treatment, childhood cancer survival can be ensured up to 80 per cent or even more in comparison to low-income countries where there is a lack of facility, the survival rate is as low as 20 per cent. The right treatment can drastically improve the chances of patient survival in childhood cancer.

Not all children with cancer can be cured but palliative care can give them relief from symptoms of the disease and improve their quality of life. Considered the core of comprehensive care, palliative care starts with the diagnosis of illness and continues throughout treatment and care, regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment with curative intent.

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