10 myths about childhood cancer busted

International Childhood Cancer Day: Every three minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer worldwide.

By Monica Vohra

Cancer is one of the most traumatic health concerns around the world and if diagnosed in children it is more disturbing and distressing. Every year, an estimated 70,000 – 80,000 new cases of childhood cancer are detected in India, among which leukemia is the most common with around 35-40 per cent cases. The word ‘leukemia’ literally means white blood, just like the disease where abnormal white bloods are produced creating problems, while compromising the overall health.

Leukemia is highly curable if detected early and the survival rate in developed nations is as high as 80-90 per cent. Yet, in India, the survival rate is as low as 33 per cent, majorly because of factors like lack of awareness, insufficient funds and late detection. Apart from this, many myths have created turmoil in people’s mind about childhood cancer.

Here are 10 myths busted about childhood cancer that will help families combat it better:

Myth 1: Children with cancer lose all reason to live

Fact: Children with cancer can lead a normal childhood. Many children return to normal school life after treatment. In other cases, children and their families modify their lifestyle to achieve normalcy. This becomes easier with care, understanding and support from family, teachers, friends and other caregivers.

Myth 2: Childhood cancer is a death sentence

Fact: Most childhood cancers are curable. For example, acute lymphoblastic leukemia which is a common form of leukemia, 3 in 4 children can be cured by chemotherapy alone. A successful cure depends on being detected on time and receiving the proper treatment.

Myth 3: Childhood cancer is hereditary

Fact: There is no known cause for most childhood cancers. Since the triggers of most childhood cancers are unknown, preventive measures are limited. Thus far, studies suggest that there is nothing a child or parent has done to induce cancer and therefore, should avoid doing in order to prevent childhood cancer.

Myth 4: Cancer is contagious and can spread like flu

Fact: Cancer is not contagious and it cannot spread from one child to another. Children with cancer wear a mask to protect themselves as their immunity is low and they are vulnerable to infections.

Myth 5: Survivors are disease carriers and health risk to others

Fact: Childhood cancer is not contagious. It is not transmitted by a virus nor it is infectious. It is safe to interact with survivors.

Myth 6: Cancer survivors have a short life

Fact: Two out of three childhood cancer survivors may have increased risk of late effects or secondary cancers depending upon the kind of cancer, however, this is not linked to life expectancy.

Myth 7: All survivors are genetically inferior and have fertility problems, they can never have children

Fact: Some survivors may have fertility and reproduction issues, but this isn’t true for many survivors, as the type of cancer and its treatment determines if they’ll have any fertility challenges.

Read| How to cope with your child’s cancer diagnosis

Myth 8: Childhood cancer survivors are cured survivors who no longer need any follow-up care

Fact: Continuing follow-up care remains important for survivors. They are at higher risk for secondary cancers or chronic health conditions related to their initial cancer treatment. Vigilance and regular monitoring are important for early identification and treatment of any health challenge for impairment.

Myth 9: Chemotherapy makes the child lose hair permanently

Fact: Hair loss due to chemotherapy is temporary.

Myth 10: Childhood cancer is rare

Fact: Every three minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer worldwide.

(The author is the mother of a childhood leukemia survior and founder of ‘Leukemia Crusaders’ – a trust that supports children suffering with the disease and ensures that no child has to give up the right of treatment for lack of funds.)

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