Myths surrounding childhood cancer:
The key to winning the fight against childhood cancer lies in busting the myths associated with it. Increasing awareness will pave the way for timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment allowing children battling cancer to lead a healthy happy life.
Myth 1: Childhood cancer is incurable
Fact: Childhood Cancer is highly curable! Most cases of childhood cancer can be cured if treated on time and given holistic care during their treatment. Early detection and diagnosis followed by suitable and timely treatment that is supplemented with a hygienic place to stay, and a nutritious diet remain the key to a successful outcome. Childhood cancer is highly curable with a cure rate of 80%.
Myth 2: Childhood cancer is contagious
Fact: Cancer is a non-communicable disease. Childhood cancer is not contagious making it completely safe for other children to socialise with children with cancer and childhood cancer survivors.
However, having weakened immune systems due to the chemotherapy and radiation therapy, children with cancer are more susceptible to secondary infections. Being immunocompromised, they have to wear masks for self- protection and are oftentimes isolated by their caregivers from large groups.
Myth 3: Childhood cancer survivors have a shorter life
Fact: Cancer survivors can lead normal lives despite being at increased risk for late side-effects and secondary cancers. Studies have shown that reduction in life expectancy depends on promptness of diagnosis, the appropriateness of cancer treatment and the nature and severity of the subsequent late side-effects. Besides, the quality of post-cancer care, specifically regular follow-up is of vital.
Myth 4: Childhood cancer patients can never lead a normal life
Fact: Most childhood cancer survivors go on to lead healthy normal lives just like their peers, post-treatment. Childhood cancer survivors level up with their peers in physical growth and development as well as mental and emotional well-being. A circle of care provided by a supportive network of family, caregivers, teachers, and friends, helps childhood cancer survivors effectively reintegrate into society and resume normal school life and activities after treatment. Moreover, post- cancer care monitoring ensures these wards remain healthy and cancer free, making life after cancer, more fulfilling and happier.
Myth 5: Childhood cancer survivors are socially challenged and generally have poor interpersonal and relational skills.
Fact: Recent studies have indicated that there is a likelihood of childhood cancer survivors exhibiting behaviours associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, evidence suggests that the availability of psychosocial support programs and services for children with cancer and childhood cancer survivors successfully equip them with better coping skills and increased resiliency.
Myth 6: Childhood cancer survivors do not require follow-up care
Fact: Regular follow-up care and diligence in adhering to it is of prime importance for childhood cancer survivors. Being at higher risk for secondary cancers or chronic health conditions related to their initial cancer therapy, it is critical to monitor young children on a regular basis. Early detection is the key to ensuring that they remain healthy and cancer-free and long-term chronic side-effects free.
Myth 7: We should never tell children directly that they have cancer
Fact: It would be practically impossible to withhold from children their condition once a diagnosis of childhood cancer is made. This would be an opportune moment for educating them with age-appropriate information and preparing them to accept and understand their condition. Empowering them to take charge of their own health would also garner cooperation from them, stealing their determination and grit to fight this deadly disease.
Childhood cancer education does not stop with children. Facts and details of their treatment should be made available to both them and their families. This would cover the expected health and lifestyle consequences and the required monitoring/regular follow-up that would be needed.
Myth 8: We can screen and detect childhood cancer early
Fact: General screening or early detection strategies are not the most optimal in preventing childhood cancer. Symptoms of childhood cancer can mimic other common paediatric illnesses and hence are difficult to ascertain. Furthermore, the diagnosis of leukaemia, the most common cancer in children, is tricky. The only reliable way to diagnose or exclude it is through a blood or bone marrow aspiration after the symptoms show.
Hence, the best bet to reduce the burden of childhood cancer and aim for improved outcomes is to focus on a swift, correct diagnosis followed by practical, evidence-based therapy with tailored supportive care.
St Judes Busting One Myth At A Time
St Judes has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of young cancer warriors. It is a support organisation that serves as a sanitised and safe residential facility that accommodates childhood cancer patients and their families, providing them with holistic support and care, ensuring that every needy child with cancer has the best chance of recovering from this illness.
Its ethos is to eradicate misconceptions and educate while providing strong circles of support, creating a supportive and nurturing environment for their social development ensuring that both patients and parents don’t lose heart in this fight. St. Judes also equips them with knowledge about the importance of hygiene and being disciplined while exercising care and caution in the course of their journey in combating childhood cancer.
Besides, the children’s stress is laid on the emotional and psychosocial needs of the primary caregivers – the parents. Qualified counsellors fulfil this need. Additionally, it oversees the overall growth and development of the child by making provisions for teachers and educators to take classes for the children, be it in academics or recreational activities, ensuring the all-round development of the children and guaranteeing their seamless reintegration into society once they are fully recovered.
While housing with compassion, St Judes gives children with cancer a right to live happy and fulfilling lives.