On average three (3) children are diagnosed with cancer every week in Namibia.
These are the shocking new statistic documented by the Namibia National Cancer Registry (NNCR), administrated by the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN).
“Between 150 to 160 new childhood cancer cases per annum for 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively, have been reported to the NNCR,” explained CAN Chief Executive Officer, Mr Rolf Hansen.
Childhood cancer cases are often fatal, as the fragile childhood immune system cannot handle both the attack by disease and strenuous treatment, and therefore a very high childhood cancer mortality rate is also experienced.
Sadly this is not the total number of children affected by cancer in our country. Many cases remain unreported to the national registry due to a lack of communication especially between the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the registry itself.
Hansen explains that many childhood cancer cases remain misdiagnosed, very late diagnosed, unrecorded or poorly recorded in so far as that these cases can be ‘counted’ but not properly recorded and investigated.
For this reason, the Cancer Association of Namibia take hands with the global community in celebrating World Childhood Cancer Day on 15 February annually to create awareness and educate on the topic.
This is done by hosting the National Spray-A-Thon towards the end of February / early March annually.
“The spraying of hair signifies the child or our own inner child: fun, funky, playful and youthful – something we all aspire to.”
The reality remains that not all children are healthy enough to enjoy these privileges and given the increase of childhood cancer cases (134 on average in 2013 vs 155 on average at current), we must remain cognisant of the fact that adults are responsible for the health of children and we must play our role to safeguard their future.
The National Spray-a-Thon supports CAN’s Children Fighting Cancer (CHICA) Programme and it is aimed at primarily creating awareness on childhood forms of cancer.
The raising of funds to support the CHICA Interim Home and children fighting cancer either at the Paediatric Oncology Ward at Windhoek Central Hospital or by direct financial assistance to children being treated for cancer through the association’s Patient Financial Assistance Programme (PFAP) is the financial focus of the campaign.
Childhood cancer information:
What should I look out for?
- An unusual lump or swelling
- Unexplained paleness and loss of energy
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- An ongoing pain in one area of the body with limping
- Unexplained fever or illness that doesn’t go away, often with frequent headaches and vomiting
- Sudden eye or vision changes
Common Namibian childhood cancer types:
- Leukaemia. Leukaemia is a cancer which starts in blood-forming tissue, usually the bone marrow. It leads to the over-production of abnormal white blood cells, the part of the immune system which defends the body against infection.
- Lymphoma (including both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin) Hodgkin disease is a type of lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer of a part of the immune system called the lymph system. The first sign of Hodgkin disease is often an enlarged lymph node. The disease can spread to nearby lymph nodes. Later it may spread to the lungs, liver, or bone marrow. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, NHL, or sometimes just lymphoma) is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system.
- Retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma (Rb) is a rare form of cancer that rapidly develops from the immature cells of a retina, the light-detecting tissue of the eye. It is the most common primary malignant intraocular cancer in children, and it is almost exclusively found in young children.
- Rhabdomyosarcoma. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of sarcoma. Sarcoma is cancer of soft tissue (such as muscle), connective tissue (such as tendon or cartilage), or bone. Rhabdomyosarcoma usually begins in muscles that are attached to bones and that help the body move
- Neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma (NB) is a type of cancer that forms in certain types of nerve tissue. It most frequently starts from one of the adrenal glands, but can also develop in the neck, chest, abdomen, or spine. Symptoms may include bone pain, a lump in the abdomen, neck, or chest, or a painless bluish lump under the skin.
Leukaemia warning signs:
- Anaemia, bruising and bleeding. A child with leukaemia may bleed more than expected after a minor injury or nosebleed
- Stomach-ache and poor appetite
- Trouble breathing
- Frequent infections
- Swelling and associated bone and joint pains