Childhood cancer: reasons for hope

The incidence of cancer in children it is very low, it only accounts for 3% of all cancers, reaching Survival of up to 70-80%. AtInternational Day of the Child with Cancer, the Spanish Federation of Children with Cancer aims to publicize the value of the golden ribbon, a symbol that compares the strength and resistance of children with the same gold. And through it, strengthen the reasons for hope.

International Day of the Child with Cancer

Each year they are diagnosed in Spain 1,500 new cases of childhood and adolescent cancer, making this disease the first cause of death by disease in children from 1 to 19 years old. "The survival rate is getting higher, but in childhood cancer, it will never be enough, until we reach 100%," says Pilar Ortega, President of the Spanish Federation of Parents of Children with Cancer.

The child cancer It is not a single disease, but includes a large number of diseases, which have in common the origin from the abnormal growth of a cell or a group of them, which invade other organs. It can manifest at the beginning with very subtle symptoms, so in periodic checkups with the pediatrician will be who will notice signs such as: lack of energy, frequent headaches, loss of appetite, persistent fever, weight loss, bone pain , appearance of a lump or unusual inflammation. Between the first and fourth years of life is when most of the childhood neoplasms appear, which affect children more often than girls. When a cancer is suspected, the specialists perform a series of tests to determine what type of tumor it is and see how far the disease has spread.

Types of childhood cancers

Leukemia: or cancer in the blood, is the most frequent and accounts for about 33% of all cases. There are different types and fever, loss of appetite, feeling tired or the appearance of bruising are some of its symptoms.

Lymphomas: they can be Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; The latter could be considered a 'bulky leukemia' and the treatment is very similar to that of lymphoblastic leukemia. Hodgkin's disease, on the other hand, affects mostly teenagers and has been linked to the Epstein-Barr virus. It is one of the diseases with the best prognosis of healing in oncology.

Brain tumors: They are the most frequent after leukemia, and may be benign or malignant. Its prognosis and treatment depend on the type of cell from which they originate. The nature of the symptoms depends on the patient's age and location; Some of the most common are loss of balance, headache, nausea, vomiting and changes in behavior.

Neuroblastoma: It is the most frequent solid tumor outside the brain in the child and is often diagnosed during the first year of life. It can appear on the chest or abdomen. Sometimes it compresses the spinal cord and causes loss of strength in the extremities or alterations in the function of the sphincters.

Retinoblastoma: This ocular cancer is one of the lowest incidence, responsible for 5% of cases of childhood blindness, its diagnosis is made before the age of five. It is one of the tumors with the best chance of curing childhood.

Wilms tumor: It can appear in one or both kidneys and usually affects children of two or three years. Although it constitutes 10% of childhood cancers, it is curable in most.

Osteosarcoma: It is the most frequent bone tumor in children and adolescents. It is located mostly at the end of the long bones (femur, tibia), around the knee.

Swing tumor: it is the second most frequent malignant bone tumor. It can be located outside of the bones, or as a more differentiated form called primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET, for its acronym in English).

Rhabdomyosarcoma: it is the most common soft tissue sarcoma. It always affects the muscles and accounts for between 4% and 8% of childhood cancer cases.

Causes and treatment of childhood cancer

Although there are some childhood tumors resulting from a certain family predisposition, in general the causes of these diseases remain unknown.

Unlike what happens in adults, the Children's cancer is not so linked to specific life habits. It has been pointed out, for example, that exposure to radiation could increase the incidence of the disease.

Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy are treatments for childhood cancer, and several can be combined.Surgery involves the removal of the tumor, while chemotherapy aims to destroy cancer cells, but can also affect the rest of healthy cells. This causes side effects, such as hair loss or the appearance of sores in the mouth. Children with cancer are exposed to infections that may require their admission to the hospital and need transfusions. Radiation therapy is usually used in conjunction with one of the other two techniques and destroys the disease through the use of high-energy radiation.

Diagnosis of childhood cancer: information to parents

Before the diagnosis of cancer in the child, many questions about its causes, prognosis and treatment arise in the parents. Knowing the disease in depth helps to face it with realism and in a positive way. Therefore, it is important that there is good communication between the team that will treat the child and their parents.

Parents should ask everything they are concerned about: what kind of cancer does your child have? What treatment will he need? How long will it last? Where can he find out more? If he can continue going to school? It is normal for all emotions to prevent understanding everything at first and some conversations will recur throughout the treatment.

Organization of the whole family in childhood cancer

The constant coming and going to the hospital alter the routine and lifestyle of the family, which will have to prepare for the new situation. One of the parents will be the one who becomes the child's companion, while the other one continues working; In addition, we will have to continue attending to the other children, because they will also be affected emotionally.

After the first impact, it is good to accept the help of the psychologist in order to normalize a situation that will last for months. Parents can not neglect their life as a couple, social relationships, attention to the rest of the family. The child's illness should not become the family monothem and, for all this, the help of a specialist is needed, which makes it easier to face other eyes.

Advice to parents of children with cancer

- Relying on the couple, family or friends.

- Ask everything that is not understood or worried.

- Ask for a second opinion if it helps to calm down.

- Trust the medical team and talk about fears.

- Listen to other parents who have been through the same situation.

- Accept that there are certain questions that have no answer.

- Avoid feelings of guilt.

- Use psychological therapies if necessary.

- Find time during the day to be alone.

- To do physical exercise.

Vicen Ramón
Advisors: Carmen Yélamos, psychologist of the AECC. Rosa García Enríquez, psychologist AECC of Madrid in the Hospital "12 de Octubre".

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