Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Though childhood cancer is rare, it is the main cause of death by disease in children ages 1 to 14 and the second overall cause of death in children; accidents are the first. Approximately 1 in 330 children will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 19. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, the overall cure rate for childhood cancer is 75%.
More than likely your child will not get childhood cancer, but being aware of the early signs and symptoms is just as important as teaching him or her to look both ways before crossing the street and can make a huge difference if he or she does.
Early signs of cancer include:
Continued, unexplained weight loss
Headaches with vomiting, at night or early morning
Increased swelling or persistent pain in bones, joints, back or legs
Lump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis or armpits
Development of excessive bruising, bleeding or rash
A whitish color behind the pupil
Nausea which persists or vomiting without nausea
Constant tiredness or noticeable paleness
Eye or vision changes which occur suddenly and persist
Recurrent fevers of unknown origin
Cancer is a group of diseases that have a common disease process – cells grow out of control, develop in abnormal sizes and shapes, ignore their boundaries within the body, destroy cells growing around them, and spread to other organs or tissues in the body. Cancer can be caused by external factors, such as tobacco, chemicals, radiation and infectious organisms, or internal factors, including hormones, genetic mutations, and immune conditions. The most common childhood cancers are leukemia, lymphoma, and brain cancer.
Survival rates of children that have cancer have improved significantly in the past 30 years. Treatment usually includes a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, depending on the type of cancer.
Even if your child does not have cancer, there are ways that you can help those that do. The Rainbow Connection, a local non-profit organization dedicated to families and children living with cancer or blood disorders sponsors a camp for children with cancer and their siblings every summer. They also promote community education on the disease, as well as support activities for parents from the time that their child is diagnosed.
The camp, which has a 24-hour medical team on-site and is staffed by volunteers, emphasizes each child’s wellness, not their illness. The camp’s philosophy centers around the fact that children with cancer or blood disorders are normal children with special needs. It is a place for them to rediscover their self-esteem and confidence and allow them to enjoy a memorable experience through activities such as fishing, swimming, canoeing and other camp-type activities.