Debunking myths around childhood cancer with Sonali Bendre
By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 18, 2023
Cancer is a word that strikes fear into our hearts, and rightly so. While we often associate cancer with adults, it is important to understand that children can also be diagnosed with this disease. Shockingly, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 400,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 0-19 are diagnosed with cancer. Leukemia, brain cancers, lymphomas, and solid tumors are some of the most common types found in children.
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In an Instagram post, Bollywood actress Sonali Bendre, a survivor of metastatic cancer herself, shed light on the myths and misconceptions surrounding childhood cancer. It is crucial to debunk these falsehoods and arm ourselves with accurate information to protect our loved ones.
Why Childhood Cancer Occurs and Survival Rates
Many people mistakenly believe that cancer is an exclusive battle fought by adults. However, cancer can affect individuals of all ages and can develop in any part of the body. It begins with a genetic change in single cells, which then form tumors. If left untreated, the cancer can spread and potentially become fatal.
The causes of childhood cancer are not fully understood. Few studies suggest that lifestyle and environmental factors may influence its development. Some infections, such as HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, or malaria, can also increase the risk of childhood cancer. Additionally, vaccinating children against Hepatitis B can help prevent cancer in their adult lives. Shockingly, according to the World Health Organization, 10% of children with cancer have a genetic predisposition.
Unfortunately, survival rates for childhood cancer are alarmingly low in low-income countries, primarily due to delayed diagnosis, limited access to accurate diagnosis and treatment, complications from therapy, and avoidable relapse.
Recognizing Possible Cancer Symptoms in Children
Here are some potential signs of cancer in children to look out for:
- An unusual lump or swelling
- Unexplained paleness and loss of energy
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Ongoing pain in one area of the body
- Unexplained fever or persistent illness
- Frequent headaches, often accompanied by vomiting
- Sudden changes in eye or vision
Debunking Childhood Cancer Myths
Myth: Childhood cancer is rare
Fact: Contrary to popular belief, childhood cancer is not rare. In India, a child is diagnosed with cancer every 11 minutes. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, the WHO states that approximately 400,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 0-19 are diagnosed with cancer worldwide.
Myth: Cancer is infectious
Fact: Cancer is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from one person to another, unlike the flu. Sharing meals or breathing the same air as a cancer patient does not pose a risk. Cancer cells from one person’s body cannot be transmitted to another person’s body.
Myth: There is no cure for children with cancer
Fact: Generic therapies like chemotherapy and radiation can cure most childhood cancers. Developed countries have success rates of up to 80% in treating childhood cancer. Early diagnosis plays a crucial role in improving treatment outcomes and survival rates. The correct diagnosis is essential as each cancer treatment plan may involve surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.
Myth: Childhood cancer survivors will never have normal lives
Fact: The majority of childhood cancer survivors grow up to lead healthy, normal lives just like their peers.
It is important to dispel these myths and misconceptions surrounding childhood cancer. By staying informed, we can support those affected by this disease and help raise awareness about the challenges they face. Let’s reject misinformation and work together to make a difference in the lives of children fighting cancer.