International Day of Childhood Cancer: February 15

International Childhood Cancer Day It was created in order to raise awareness in the general population about the magnitude that this problem represents for public health and for the people involved.

The fact that a child receives the diagnosis of cancer means a before and after in the life of all the members of the family. Therefore, ensuring timely support is essential to obtain the best chance of success. Next, you will find a short article about the importance of this day and some generalities of this group of pathologies. Keep reading!

International Day of Childhood Cancer

The history of this day dates back to 2001, at which time groups from various countries met in Luxembourg to form the International Organization for Childhood Cancer (ICC). Some of the fundamental objectives are the following:

  • Provide support for hundreds of thousands of families going through the difficult process of a family cancer diagnosis.
  • Promote healthy habits and reduce risk factors for childhood cancer.
  • Raise awareness about early diagnosis and timely treatment.
  • Highlight the deficiencies in health care in developing countries.

For this reason, that same year it was agreed to create the International Day of Childhood Cancer, whose date of celebration would be February 15 of each year. This has been done since then and constitutes an advance in the promotion of public health.

International Childhood Cancer Day is an opportunity to learn more about this disease and the ways to deal with it.

What is the prevalence of childhood cancer?

According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) about 300,000 cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed each year worldwide. The data vary greatly according to the region, since many developing countries lack some diagnostic elements and an epidemiological record.

In the case of Europe, data collected by the Automated Childhood Cancer Information System (ASIC) showed a considerable increase in the incidence of various forms of the disease in recent years.

Find out more: How to talk to a person with cancer

Main types of cancer in children

The distribution of malignant tumors in childhood is different from that in adults. The most frequent diseases within this group are the following:

  • Leukemia: It is a type of cancer that affects blood cells, especially those that are part of the immune system. These can grow out of control within the bones (bone marrow) and spread to other tissues.
  • Lymphoma: It is similar to the previous case, although it can form solid masses in organs as varied as the intestine, brain and lungs.
  • Neuroblastoma: This tumor arises from embryonic cells that give rise to neurons, and its appearance is frequent in the adrenal glands. It usually has a poor prognosis due to the difficulty in diagnosing it early.
  • Wilms tumor: it is the most common type of kidney cancer in children. Due to its characteristics, surgical treatment tends to be a valid option.

There are many other malignant tumors in this age group, including rhabdomyosarcoma, testicular cancer, and thyroid cancer.

Risk factors in childhood cancer

Unlike tumors in adults, there are not many known risk factors for developing cancer in children. Genetic factors, exposure to radiation, infection with some types of virus (such as Epstein-Barr or hepatitis B) and exposure to some substances during pregnancy (diethylstilbestrol) are some of them.

Importance of early diagnosis

Did you know that the fatal outcome of many diseases could be avoided with a few simple steps? Of course, it is a theme that highly dependent on quality of care and available resources. In any case, early diagnosis saves lives.

The same thing that happens with an annual gynecological evaluation to prevent breast or cervical cancer in adult women, happens in children. Periodic comprehensive evaluation by a pediatrician is important not only for checking height and weight growth, but also for cancer prevention.

A timely medical consultation would serve to diagnose, for example, a Wilms tumor in full development or the elevation of blood cells that characterize leukemia. This can happen even before children start to develop symptoms.

Timely detection of childhood cancer is essential to initiate appropriate treatments and improve prognosis.

Available treatments

You have likely heard about many therapies available for cancer. The truth is that the options are growing every year at a rapid rate and have replaced many old methods and drugs.

Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgical interventions

Medical treatments in this group (radio and chemotherapy) are the most conventional, despite the fact that the frequency of adverse effects is usually high. Along with surgical interventions, They allow the elimination of cancer cells in a tough process that can last several months.

Not all patients require these treatments, as it depends on the type of tumor and the clinical context. However, the options available in developing countries are often limited to this group, due to the high cost of modern therapies.

Bone marrow transplant, immunotherapy and others

Each year, the efforts of researchers around the world enable the creation and advancement of new cancer therapies. This is the case of bone marrow transplantation and immunotherapy, whose creators received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1990 and 2018, respectively.

In recent years, the rise of gene editing thanks to technologies such as CRISPR has launched numerous therapies for the treatment of cancer, especially blood tumors. Those responsible for discovering and developing this technique also received the same award in 2020.

Importance of psychological and clinical monitoring

One of the goals of International Childhood Cancer Day is to raise awareness about the magnitude of the problem. Not only is this a tough diagnosis from a physical point of view, it is also it can cause serious psychological sequelae in patients.

The severe pain, financial problems, the large number of visits to the hospital and bad news are aspects that can be difficult for children to assimilate. Psychosocial care in these cases is vital and can be provided by mental health professionals, such as psychologists and psychiatrists.

As far as possible, if the treating physician is empathetic, the relationship with the patient and family will be much more enjoyable. Children will develop less rejection of inquiries, and parents will feel in the right hands. A good doctor-patient relationship is vital in this regard.

Find out more: Cancer affects not only physical health but also emotional health

Some tips for coping with your child's cancer diagnosis

Although each case is particular, it is convenient to take into account some aspects that can make the path easier. Let's see in detail.

  • Despite the physical and emotional pain, it is important ensure a healthy family environment. Less exposure to conflict can greatly improve children's moods.
  • It is not necessary to talk about the subject more than necessary, especially when it comes to teenagers. It is preferable to invest time in activities that provide happiness while complying with medical indications.
  • Seek psychological help and support in civil organizations It's fundamental. Sharing personal experiences of success fosters an atmosphere of hope at home.
  • Do not look for an excess of information on the internet. Sometimes technical terms can confuse and worry parents. The most important doubts must be clarified with the attending physician.

A day to remember

There are simple and effective ways to mark International Childhood Cancer Day. One of them is to share with loved ones information about the importance of these pathologies and the need to go to preventive medical consultations. In this kind of thing, a small grain of sand has the power to make a difference.