September Awareness Month and we go gold

Did you know that September is Childhood Cancer awareness month?
Did you also know that the childhood cancer survival rate in small to medium-income countries like Zimbabwe is gravitating around 20% compared to 80% in the developed world?

With better knowledge it is possible to raise it higher!
There are a lot of solutions Zimbabwe as a nation can implement to promote early detection and treatment, ultimately improving the survival rate.
They say ignorance is expensive and indeed the nation continues to pay heavily as the morbidity and mortality rates continue to soar.

While it is relatively easy to tame other diseases, childhood cancer demands attention from across the divide of race, sex, and class because it doesn’t discriminate.

In a situation like this, the poor often find themselves on the receiving end given the expensive and winding nature of the disease.

The stress reliever ball available at KidzCan Zimbabwe

It would also appear people largely do not know about childhood cancer as often there is confusion when a child is diagnosed with any one of the 6 common cancers most prevalent in Zimbabwe: neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma (eye cancer) bone, Wilms tumour (kidney) brain, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Quite often there are simple exercises that people can engage in that may indicate if a child has cancer. For instance, in the case of retinoblastoma taking a flash photo of the eyes of a child could give some pointers.
Normal eyes have the same colour while a reflection or squint can indicate a need to visit the nearest health facility for screening.
And true to the adage that a stitch in time saves nine, this can save a life through early detection.
Imagine turning up at a hospital and it’s late, and suddenly you are faced with making a decision whether to recommend the removal of one or both of the eyes to save the life of the child while there was such a simple primary diagnosis.
There is always fear when parents and guardians are suddenly confronted with what would seem like an insurmountable decision, and as KidzCan Zimbabwe we find ourselves also offering psycho-social support on how we can walk together in the journey against childhood cancer.

From our perspective, our main interest is to save the life of the kid, we also want to save vision, hence early detection becomes an indispensable component of the treatment system.

Within a culturally oriented society like Zimbabwe, this danger of ignorance is somewhat amplified as sometimes over-reliance on traditional healers can lead to children being taken to inexpensive traditional and religious practitioners resulting in patients defaulting on their medical treatment.
At KidzCan Zimbabwe we do follow-ups on such patients only to get ignored by parents refusing to pick up our calls as they consult alternative solutions.

It is painful to see the same parents turning up late with the little patients upon realizing that they can no longer contain the situation on their own, and then all we can do is send the child to palliative care which is basically a medical caregiving approach aimed at optimizing quality of life and mitigating suffering among people with serious, complex, and often terminal illnesses.

As KidzCan Executive Director Daniel Mckenzie rightly noted, “cancer is cancer regardless of where a child is born, the treatment is the same and no child should die.
In fact, it is better to get 1 positive child out of 100 screened patients because that child is 100 % to their family.”

The month of September provides us with an opportunity to make ourselves and others more acquainted with childhood cancer and all its forms and the various diagnostics and treatments available.
The story of childhood cancer is one that is foreign to the general population and requires attention and many activities to cultivate traction.

It may sound cliché but knowledge really is power, and in this instance the power to save young lives!


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