One in 600 kids diagnosed with cancer a year

SIFISO Khumalo is a 10-year-old from Meadowlands in Soweto. In January this year he was diagnosed with blood cancer.

SIFISO Khumalo is a 10-year-old from Meadowlands in Soweto. In January this year he was diagnosed with blood cancer.

Since then he has been a patient in the paediatric oncology ward of the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

He longs to go home so he can play with his friends but has to stay in hospital while he gets treatment. He is one of the lucky ones because his cancer was discovered early. Many children's cancers go unnoticed and untreated, resulting in death.

Sifiso is one of the one in every 600 children in South Africa who are diagnosed with cancer annually.

"I was diagnosed with blood cancer in January this year," he said yesterday from his hospital bed.

"Doctors explained to me and my mother that I need to undergo treatment in hospital which included chemotherapy. I miss home, my friends and family but the nurses tell me that I will go once I am healthy," said Sifiso.

The most common cancers are leukaemia, tumours of the brain and a wide variety of other tumours.

Childhood cancers are generally treated with chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, and in some cases a combination of these. Bone marrow or stem cell transplants are also used.

ChocChildhood Cancer Foundation Arlene Zlotnick said yesterday: "At least half of the children with cancer in our country are never diagnosed because the symptoms are not recognised or noticed too late for treatment."

Sylvia Mdluli, who heads the paediatric oncology ward at Bara, said parents needed to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer.

"Our main challenge in the hospital is when parents refuse to believe that their children are sick and need medical attention," she said.

"They often say the kids have been bewitched and by the time the child gets to us he or she is at a late stage of cancer."

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