The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), strives to raise awareness of the symptoms of cancer affecting adolescents, during September. This month is International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and it is particularly important that awareness is created, as most cancers in children and teens have unknown risk factors. Raising awareness on signs and symptoms of cancer to aid early diagnosis is important.

Cara Noble, CANSA National Manager, Tough Living with Cancer (TLC) programme states, “It’s estimated that at least two-thirds of children with cancer never reach a specialist treatment centre and that the majority of those who do, are unfortunately in the advanced stages of their illness.”

Noble said cancers affecting younger people share general symptoms with other illnesses, which can result in a misdiagnosis. “In teens especially, the warning signs of cancer may be attributed to growing pains associated with this developmental stage or with normal sports injuries, as teens tend to be active. Parents and guardians need to be alert to symptoms that persist or reoccur repeatedly, as medical assistance should then be sought immediately.

“The cause of most cancers affecting teens is not known. Current international data suggests 10% of teens diagnosed may have a genetic predisposition to it and those with HIV are at higher risk for certain cancers such as Kaposi Sarcoma and non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The top cancers currently affecting teens are non-Hodgkins, Hodgkins Lymphomas, bone and soft tissue cancers (sarcomas), brain tumours, Kaposi Sarcoma and leukaemia,” she said.

Noble adds, “The CANSA TLC, children and teens’ support programme embraces a holistic approach to include the emotional and social well-being of parents, guardians, children or teens and their siblings. Sharing of cancer-related information, counselling, support groups, assistance with prostheses, ports, broviacs, medical equipment, hospital or ward support programmes, food and basic essential parcels to families in need and accommodation for parents near treatment centres at TLC lodges, form part of the service offering.”

Noble said CANSA TLC also supports the child who has a parent or sibling that has been diagnosed with cancer, who sometimes has to become a caregiver.

“Parents or guardians needing support are encouraged to contact their local CANSA Care Centre and can also join the CANSA TLC Childhood Cancer Support Group on Facebook, where they can connect with others in a similar position, ” concludes Noble. For more information, visit www.cansa.org.za