What is the ‘Yellow and Gold Month’ project all about?
September is official Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Namibia will be the first African country to join in the ‘Yellow and Gold in the fight against Childhood Cancer’ campaign. This means that, for the entire month of September CAN will have media campaigns and talks, and the Maerua Mall Office Tower will be illuminated in golden light to help create awareness of the fight against childhood cancer in Namibia.
What is CHICA NAMIBIA all about?
Children with Cancer in Namibia or Children Fighting Cancer in Namibia – CHICA is the children’s focus wing that resides under the umbrella of the Cancer Association of Namibia. It was formed to foster increased public awareness and bring knowledge of childhood cancer warning signs to the general public. We also try to support by offering emotional and financial support to enhance the quality of life of cancer patients and their families.
What are the aspects that make the risk of childhood cancer different from that seen in adult cancer?
1. Different and sometimes-unique exposure to environmental hazards mean that children must rely on their parents or adults to protect them from toxic environmental agents and help identify symptoms. Adults can feel and explain and self-examine, whereas children often do not know how to communicate irritation, pain or cancer symptoms in general.
2. The growth and development of children in phases known as ‘Developmental Windows’ result in certain critical windows of vulnerability. Basically as the child develops certain hormonal and diet cycle changes and this can cause confusion or just be seen as normal growing pains – when it may actually be symptoms of more critical media conditions.
So what are the warning signs parents should be looking out for?
• Continued and unexplained weight loss;
• Headaches, often with vomiting early in the evening or early morning especially;
• Increased swelling or pain in bones, joints, back and legs;
• Lumps or masses/growths in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis and armpits;
• Developments of excessive bruising, bleeding, rashes or constant infections;
• Also look out for a whitish colour behind the pupils in the eyes;
• A very common warning sign is constant tiredness and noticeable paleness;
• And also recurrent fevers of unknown origin should be noted carefully.
Childhood cancer in Namibia:
Cancer in children can occur anywhere in the body, including the blood and lymph node system, brain and nervous system, eyes, muscles, liver, kidneys, bone/skeletal structure as most prevalent examples. Each cancer has its own severity depending on many factors such as the patient child age and gender and stage of diagnoses.
Most common cancer cases reported to the Cancer Association of Namibia:
1. Neurobalstoma – a tumour of immature nerve cells that often starts in the adrenal glands;
2. Hodgkins or Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma: These are cancers that begin in the lymph system of the child’s body;
3. Rhabdomyosarcoma: a type of tumour that begins in the muscles;
4. Retinoblastoma: This is an eye tumour or cancer of the eyes and starts in the retina of the eye;
5. Kaposi Sarcoma: This form of cancer is common in children positively diagnosed with HIV and affects the skin, mouth and lungs especially;
6. Osteosarcoma: Tumours that start growing usually in the bone (skeletal cancer);
7. Hepatobalstoma: Tumours of the liver (commonly known as liver cancer).
How can we prevent childhood cancer in Namibia?
Childhood cancer can be prevented to a great degree by promoting a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits.
Parents should provide a smoke-free environment for children. Adults – please do not smoke in homes and cars – second-hand smoke kills.
Parents should encourage and energy-balance lifestyle like regular physical activity such as walks and swimming and playing outside, as opposed to only sitting indoors in front of the television or playing tv games or video games.
Also a low-fat and low-refined sugar diet to avoid obesity and high sugar levels are encouraged.
Parents should learn about the facts of vaccinations, such as HBV and HPV to help prevent cervical cancer that can affect teenage girls from 16 years old already.
Teach your children to be sun-smart, especially in our dry and bright desert country. A SPF 30+ sunblock, protective clothing and sun hat is important. And please remember that skin cancer, especially, can affect any age and race and gender.
* Rolf Hansen is the Chief Executive Officer of the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN).