DOH wants pediatric cancer awareness in Bicol broadened

The regional office of the Department of Health (DOH) here is undertaking a program to broaden the awareness of Bicolanos on pediatric cancer.

The program is in line with the observance this April of the "Cancer in Children Awareness Month" that intends to inform the public of facts, findings and trend surrounding this dreadful illness that attacks children from zero to 19 years old.

DOH regional director Gloria Balboa on Monday said the Center for Health and Development (CHD) for Bicol, which is under her office, has been conducting since last week information dissemination activities like radio interviews and distribution of visual materials on child cancer whose real cause remains unknown.

“Most of the time, child cancer is already in its advanced stage when diagnosed,” she said. The most common pediatric cancer affecting Filipino children are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) both causing bone and joint pain, weakness, bleeding, fever and weight loss, among other symptoms, Balboa said.

Other types of cancer that occur in children are brain and other nervous system tumors, lymph tissue cancers, bone cancers, soft tissue sarcomas, kidney cancers, eye cancers and adrenal gland cancers.

The immaturity of children's organ systems often has important effects on treatment of these cancers, according to Balboa. Balboa said that unlike many cancers of adults, there are no avoidable risk factors, such as smoking or exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace, that are known to influence child's risk of developing cancer.

A risk factor is anything that changes chance of getting the disease and different cancers have different risk factors. Lifestyle-related risk factors have little or no affect on childhood cancer.

“So, if your child does develop cancer, it is important to know that there is nothing you or your child did to cause it. Since a few childhood cancers can be hereditary, survivors of those types may want to think about genetic counseling before having children,” Balboa said.