The very mention of the word ‘cancer’ sends shivers down our spine, doesn’t it? Although we are acquainted with adults being diagnosed with various kinds of cancers, it happens in children too. Yes, you heard it right. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 400,000 children and adolescents between 0-19 years are diagnosed with cancer. Some of the most common types of cancers include leukemia, brain cancers, lymphomas, and solid tumors.
But there exist several myths around childhood cancer, which is why Bollywood actress Sonali Bendre, a survivor of metastatic cancer herself, has shared an Instagram post. She highlighted the various myths and misconceptions around this condition. They say knowledge is power, which is why it is important to be informed and take requisite steps before it’s too late.
Before we speak about the myths, let’s discuss the various reasons why childhood cancer happens, and what are the reasons for its low survival rates.
Most people believe that cancer can happen only to adults, but that’s not true. In fact, it can affect people of all ages, and any part of the body. It starts off with a genetic change in single cells and then increases in size to become a tumor. In certain cases, it also impacts other parts of the body, and if left untreated, can cause death.
Most childhood cancers do not have a known cause. Very few studies indicate the influence of lifestyle or environmental factors. In some cases, infections such as HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, or malaria could be risk factors for childhood cancer. It is also important for a child to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B to prevent the occurrence of cancer in adult life. As per data released by the World Health Organization, 10% of all children with cancer have a predisposition because of genetic factors.
The survival rates in the case of childhood cancer are particularly low in low-income countries, largely due to the delay in diagnosis, inability to receive an accurate diagnosis, inaccessible therapy, death from side effects, and avoidable relapse.
Fact: This isn’t true at all. Every 11 minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer in India. Moreover, as mentioned above, WHO states that approximately 400,000 children and adolescents between 0-19 years are diagnosed with cancer.
Fact: Cancer is not contagious and cannot be transmitted, unlike the flu. No one can catch cancer from another person. No, not even if you are sharing meals or breathing the same air. The cancer cells from a patient’s body cannot be transmitted to the body of another person.
Fact: Generic therapy like chemotherapy and radiation, can cure most childhood cancers. In fact, cure rates are as high as 80% in developed countries. Early diagnosis can really help children respond better to treatment, and in turn, improve survival. A correct diagnosis is essential to treat children with cancer because each cancer treatment includes surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.
Fact: Most childhood cancer survivors go on to lead healthy normal lives just like their friends.
So, do not fall prey to myths and misconceptions!