Cancer is already the leading cause of death for children and adolescents

Cancer is already the leading cause of death for children and adolescents - Credit: disclosure Credit: Disclosure

Although cancer in children is a rare disease, it is responsible for the majority of deaths among children and adolescents from 1 to 19 years of age, around 8% of the total, according to the José Alencar Gomes da Silva National Cancer Institute (Inca).

“It is the leading cause of death from disease in Brazil and in developed countries. It (cancer) is second only to external causes, such as trauma, and other external agents,” Flávia Martins, an oncologist and member of the board of directors of the Brazilian Society of Pediatric Oncology (Sobope), told Agência Brasil today.

The three most common types of cancer among children and young people, in order of frequency, are leukemias, tumors in the Central Nervous System (CNS) and lymphomas.

Dr. Flávia Martins recommends that, in order to make an early diagnosis, it is necessary to pay attention to the child and what the parents say, as there are different times of diagnosis. The first ones consist of the recognition of symptoms by the parents and non-specialized medical care for the child in a hospital, emergency room or Basic Health Unit (UBS). Then comes the complex service, with the final diagnosis.

The month of September is reserved for awareness and combating childhood cancer.

Recognition

The oncologist warns that parental recognition of symptoms is very important. “Watch out for ongoing fevers. Remember that the child does have fevers, viruses, infections, but they last, at most, between three and five days, and do not usually leave the child prostrate, they do not usually cause pain”. Another important sign, according to the doctor, is paleness.

“When the child is a little discolored and less active, parents should take it into account and take it for a medical evaluation. Any neurological symptoms, such as strabismus, when the child is cross-eyed, or the child complains of sudden visual change, headache”.

Flávia Martins emphasized that “pain is something for adults, this is not something for children. Children, in order to have pain, there has to be some justification and this pain has to go through an investigation”.

The oncologist recognized that warning symptoms are easier for doctors to detect. The most common symptoms of other illnesses, such as fever and stomach pain, end up going unnoticed.

Quality of life

Statistics from the José Alencar Gomes da Silva National Cancer Institute (Inca) for the 2020/2022 triennium estimate 8,460 new cases of childhood cancers per year, 4,310 for males and 4,150 for females.

According to Inca, the progress in the treatment of cancer in childhood and adolescence over the last four decades has been extremely significant. “Today, around 80% of children and adolescents affected by the disease can be cured if diagnosed early and treated in specialized centers. Most of them will have a good quality of life after proper treatment”, informs Inca.

Oncologist Flávia Martins recalled that it is important not only for the child to be cured, but also to maintain quality of life, with functional capacity. “Because it’s not enough to heal. We have to promote that this child becomes an adult, and even a healthy elderly person. So, the earlier we find that tumor of the central nervous system, that leukemia, we will often be able to plan the treatment so that the child is less deprived, suffers less aggression”.

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