How To Support Children With Childhood Cancer

An expert shares her thought on the heartbreaking matter.

According to the Malaysian National Cancer Registry Report 2007 – 2011, a total of 103, 507 new cancer cases were diagnosed during this period. Of this, childhood cancer (affecting those aged 0 to 18 years old) comprised 3,829 cases, which accounted for three to four per cent of all cancer cases observed in Malaysia,” Dr Chan Lee Lee (consultant paediatrician and paediatric haematologist at Subang Jaya Medical Centre) expounds. Also, the report shows that the five most common cancers present among children are leukaemia, followed by cancer of the brain and nervous system, lymphoma, bone, and testis or ovary.

Dr Chan explains that “Lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a cancer involving white blood cells in the body, and it’s the most common in children. The symptoms include inexplicable, irregular fevers; paleness or bruises on the body; and sometimes, bone or joint pains. What’s also noteworthy is that most cases of ALL are not linked to a known cause.” Although, says Dr Chan, “There are some congenital symptoms that increase the risk for leukaemia, such as Down syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and inherited immune deficiencies.”

If your child has had the symptoms mentioned above for days to weeks before being diagnosed, it is deemed as late detection. Treatment is typically chemotherapy for two years.

Doctor Chan shares that you can be your young child’s pillar of strength by:

  1. Sharing information about the signs and symptoms of ALL, and raising awareness of the need to seek the correct doctor.
  2. Being in contact with patients and cheering them up. ALL is not contagious.
  3. Giving financial aid to cancer support groups that are genuinely helping patients in need.

Is there a cure?

80 to 90 per cent of children with a standard to low risk will be cured. The rate is 50 to 60 per cent for those considered as high risk, says Dr Chan.

*This article first appeared in Her World August 2018 and was written by Amanda Soh