Article written by Frances Nadine Cua

Photo by Patrick Caro

Envision a childhood full of going in and out of the hospital or one that is confined to a hospital setting. Takes a toll on your quality of life, won’t it? That is in part a glimpse of what a handful of children with cancer experience on a habitual basis.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month highlights both the struggles and the triumphs in the field of pediatric cancer and most importantly, the children who experience it firsthand. As it treads on yet another milestone this year, the campaign is joined alongside The Hope Project in its advocacy to spread awareness on the reality of childhood cancer’s longstanding impact on afflicted children and their families.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), chronic conditions that cannot be passed on from an individual to another, have collectively been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the cause of 71% of all deaths worldwide (2018). While it is a “leading cause of morbidity and mortality,” cancer is regarded to be among the four NCDs that are identified as epidemic in the Philippines as well (Philippine Cancer Control Program, n.d.).

Childhood cancer is ascribed to children who develop cancer below the age of 18. Although childhood cancer is at the rare end of the spectrum, it redefines the lives of 50 to 200 in a million children worldwide. The types of cancer can range from those that present in all age groups to “several tumor types that occur almost exclusively in children including neuroblastoma, nephroblastoma, medulloblastoma and retinoblastoma.” According to the WHO, leukaemia represents a third of childhood cancers worldwide (2018). The prevalence of leukemia among children is likewise reflected in the local Philippine scene with an incidence rate of almost 50% (Lecciones, 2015).

Dr. Julius A. Lecciones, an esteemed pediatric oncologist of the Philippine Children’s Medical Centre (PCMC), stresses that “two-thirds of children with cancer in the Philippines are diagnosed at advanced stages,” with a treatment abandonment rate of 80%. Consequently, more room is given for the onset of morbidity while mortality remains high with poor survival rates (2015). Given this, it is essential to look into limiting factors, whether in the personal context or in the environment, that can act as daunting barriers when children with cancer seek for quality medical care.

Investing in the accessibility of oncological care and in early diagnoses of childhood cancer can ultimately facilitate more effective interventions and entail better outcomes. With this, The Hope Project remains adamant and optimistic about championing its advocacy beyond Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by invariably stirring up the conversation on the present circumstances of pediatric cancer in the Philippines and by unceasingly celebrating the lives of children with cancer.

References:

International Childhood Cancer Day: Questions & Answers. (2018, January 29). Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/cancer/media/news/Childhood_cancer_day/en/

Lecciones, J. A. (2015, July 28). The global Improvement of childhood cancer care in the Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.cancercontrol.info/cc2015/the-global-improvement-of-childhood-cancer-care-in-the-philippines/

Noncommunicable diseases. (2018, June 1). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases

Philippine Cancer Control Program: Department of Health website. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.doh.gov.ph/philippine-cancer-control-program

Inspiring hope, one pediatric patient at a time. #ForTheKids!