Educating parents to understand warning signs can save lives
Tuesday, 15 February 2022, Cape Town: On International Childhood Cancer Day, Icon Oncology is joining the global oncology community to raise awareness about childhood cancers and to express support for children and teenagers with cancer, and their families.
Every year more than 400,000 children and young people (below the age of 20) around the world are diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, survival rates depend on geographical location, with an 80% survival rate in most High Income Countries, compared to rates as low as 20% in Low and Middle Income countries.
Unfortunately, despite being defined by the World Bank as High-Middle-Income Country, South Africa mirrors poor survival outcomes. “We reside in a divided landscape, with access to first world standard of care healthcare and treatment reserved for those who can afford private medical care. Sadly, the vast majority of our population faces socio-economic and geographical barriers to accessing life-saving treatment,” explains Dr Johann Riedemann a clinical and radiation oncologist with a special interest in childhood cancers.
Dr Riedemann is part of a national network of more than 150 private oncologists who under the Icon Oncology banner, are championing better access to quality cancer treatment for all South Africans. One of the ways in which they are achieving this is to invest in state-of-the-art technology which can be used to treat cancer.
In radiation oncology, specialist machines called linear accelerators (Linacs) are used to precision-target tumours, destroy cancer cells and limit unwanted toxicity to normal cells. Icon Oncology recently installed a new Linac at the Cape Gate Oncology Unit where Dr Riedemann and his colleagues from Cancercare work to treat cancer patients – including children who previously had to travel great distances to receive treatment in Cape Town. Relieving this geographical barrier is a blessing to both parent and child amidst the challenge of cancer. Dr Riedemann explains that early detection and treatment for childhood cancers are important; “If detected early, many children can be treated successfully. Research shows that the sooner a child is diagnosed the better the outcome for the patient. Parents can equip themselves with knowing the warning signs of childhood cancers and when to consult a doctor if these symptoms persist” says Dr Riedemann.