Doha, 23 September, 2019: Cancer is a disease that can affect anyone at any age, but the effects of the disease can be especially devastating when the patient is a child. Each September health organizations around the world recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by acknowledging the thousands of children and their families who are living with a cancer diagnosis and by emphasizing the importance of childhood cancer awareness and research.
Ms. Catherine Gillespie, Executive Director of Nursing at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR) and Director of the National Cancer Program said childhood cancer, also called pediatric cancer, is a term used to describe cancers that occur in children under the age of 15 years. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these cancers are rare with overall incidence rates varying between 50 and 200 per one million children across the world.
“HMC works closely with Sidra Medicine in the care and treatment of children and adolescents with cancer. With an expert multidisciplinary team including pediatric hematologists and oncologists, specialist nurses, and allied health specialists, Sidra Medicine provides comprehensive cancer and blood diseases services to children and adolescents,” said Ms. Gillespie.
Childhood cancers differ from adult cancers in the way they grow and spread, how they are treated, and how they respond to treatment. They also tend to be more aggressive than adult cancers. Common adult cancers such as lung, breast, colon, and prostate seldom occur in children, with the most common cancers in children affecting blood cells and the lymph system, brain, liver, and bones.
Childhood cancer is caused by changes in the DNA or chromosomes of the cells and unlike adult cancers, there have not been any proven environmental or lifestyle associations. Dr. Catherine Cole, Division Chief of Oncology and Hematology at Sidra Medicine said most childhood cancers are curable, but she noted that delayed diagnosis significantly reduces a child’s chance of survival. She said while it isn’t possible to prevent cancer in children, supporting research into new, better, and kinder treatments for children and young people with cancer is essential.
“We cannot prevent childhood cancer, but modern treatment means that an increasing number of children will be cured of their disease. We are constantly researching the causes of childhood cancer and looking for better, safer treatments. Community support for this research is crucial. A cancer diagnosis in a child can turn the lives of the entire family upside down. We encourage people to replace fear and misunderstanding of those affected with compassion and information to help them cope with the illness,” said Dr. Cole.
“As rare as childhood cancers are, only highly skilled hematologists, oncologists, and specially-trained doctors have the knowledge and experience to properly treat them. In fact, all childhood cancers are treated by a multidisciplinary team for pediatric oncology. Only through the multidisciplinary approach can we ensure that children affected receive the treatment and supportive care they need to help them survive this disease and return to a good quality of life after cancer,” added Dr. Cole.
In support of the Qatar National Cancer Strategy, HMC is educating the public and raising awareness of all types of cancer, including childhood cancer, through an ongoing series of awareness activities and community engagement events.