June 19, 2024

Lara Adejoro

The World Health Organisation African Region on Wednesday said there were 28,000 deaths and 52,000 new cases of childhood cancer in 2020.

The WHO also said an estimated 400,000 children worldwide develop cancer every year and the majority live in low and middle-income countries.

The International Childhood Cancer Day is commemorated on February 15 annually and it is dedicated to raising awareness and showing support for children and adolescents suffering from cancer.

The 2023 theme is ‘Better Survival.’ The theme is targeted towards meeting the WHO Global Childhood Cancer Initiative’s goal of at least 60 per cent of children diagnosed with cancer worldwide surviving by 2030.

Cancer occurs in people of all ages and can affect any part of the body. It begins with a genetic change in single cells, that then grow into a mass or tumour, that invades other parts of the body and causes harm and death if left untreated.

The vast majority of childhood cancers do not have a known cause. Even though many studies have sought to identify the causes of childhood cancer, very few cancers in children are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors.

While most children with cancer can be cured, it is a leading cause of death for children due to late presentation, and lack of access to care.

“In Africa, there were 28,000 deaths and 52,000 new cases of childhood cancer in 2020.

“Only 20 per cent of children with cancer in Africa survive for five years after diagnosis, compared to 80 per cent in high-income countries.

“As it is not generally possible to prevent childhood cancer, countries should invest early in detection, effective therapy, and supportive care,” the UN body said on its Twitter handle @WHOAFRO.

To increase survival rates for childhood cancer, the WHO calls for early diagnosis, access and complete treatment, and management of toxicity and relapse.

The agency said “Each year, an estimated 400,000 children and adolescents of 0-19 years old develop cancer. The most common types of childhood cancers include leukemias, brain cancers, lymphomas, and solid tumours, such as neuroblastoma and Wilms tumours.

“In high-income countries, where comprehensive services are generally accessible, more than 80 per cent of children with cancer are cured. In low- and middle-income countries, less than 30 per cent are cured.

“Only 29 per cent of low-income countries report that cancer medicines are generally available to their populations compared to 96 per cent of high-income countries.

“Childhood cancer data systems are needed to drive continuous improvements in the quality of care, and to inform policy decisions.”

It added that most childhood cancers can be cured with generic medicines and other forms of treatment, including surgery and radiotherapy.

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