The month of September brings to discussion the importance of early diagnosis of childhood cancer. The Golden September was created to alert everyone about the importance of paying attention to the signs and symptoms suggestive of cancer in children and young people, helping in its early detection and treatment.
“The Golden September has the great objective of remembering the presence of this disease. Remember that childhood cancer exists and warn about the importance of making an early diagnosis. It is not possible to talk about childhood cancer prevention, as it is a different disease from adults. The adult, for example, we know that if he smokes, there is a risk of getting throat cancer. If you don’t do physical activity, don’t have healthy lifestyle habits, live under a lot of stress can cause breast cancer, among many others. This is different with the child”, points out the doctor Adalisa Reinke, pediatric oncologist and responsible for the service at Hospital São José. “There is nothing you can do to prevent it, which is why signs and symptoms are important. It is necessary to be alert so that any alteration that is noticed, of course discarding the most common childhood diseases, is always remembered about childhood cancer. The sooner we suspect, make the diagnosis and start the treatment, the prognosis and the patient’s survival will be better”, adds the specialist.
According to the pediatric oncologist, childhood cancer can manifest itself from birth and there are patients who continue under treatment until 21 years of age. “The difference between childhood cancer and adult cancer is in the type of cell it manifests. In children, most of the time, they are embryonic cells. The most common types are acute leukemia, which is the main childhood cancer, followed by central nervous system tumors (which affect young children more), and lymphomas, which affect teenagers more”, explains Dr. Adalisa.
According to the specialist, the symptoms are very similar to common childhood illnesses. “Recurrent fever for which the cause cannot be found, needs to be investigated. Purple spots that appear on the body without bumps, vomiting, headache, behavior change, irritability. Happy child, it’s noisy. If the child has changed their behavior, they have to turn on the alert, because something may be altered in the central nervous system, for example”, praises the doctor.
There are other symptoms that also need attention. “Retinoblastoma, which is cancer in the little eyes, manifests itself with strabismus. Sometimes a photo is taken with a flash and a little white spot is left in the eye. This is a warning sign and parents should see the pediatrician for evaluation and he will provide the necessary referral. Bone pain is also needed to stay alert. Is there the pain of growing up? Yes there is. But the pain of growing up happens more at the end of the day, it is relieved with rest or with simple analgesia. Not having relief from this pain, since it is persistent, we need to think about leukemia or bone tumors”, explains Dr. Adalisa.
Increased abdominal volume should also light the alert for cases of childhood abdominal tumors that are also quite common.
Currently, Hospital São José has 42 patients diagnosed with childhood cancer undergoing treatment. The institution provides chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hospitalization and oncopediatric surgery treatments. Only child transplants that are performed outside of Santa Catarina, since there are no hospitals that perform these procedures in the state.