Why Early Detection of Pediatric Cancer Is Vital

A pediatric hematologist shares six reasons why it helps to detect the signs of cancer in children as early as possible

Smiling child suffering from pediatric cancer on hospital bed
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

In the enchanting world of childhood, where laughter drowns out worries and innocence graces every step, pediatric cancer, also known as childhood cancer, casts a shadow challenging the very essence of joy. Despite the faster growth rate of childhood cancers compared to their adult counterparts, a glimmer of hope emerges through early detection, promising effective treatment and brighter outcomes.

Detecting the Early Signs of Pediatric Cancer

In children, early detection plays a pivotal role in improving prognosis and outcomes. Childhood cancer manifests differently than adult cancers, emphasizing the importance of vigilance for early clues such as frequent and severe viral infections, weight loss, poor appetite, persistent headaches, or unexplained fever. Though these symptoms may resemble common childhood illnesses, health experts insist that persistent occurrences necessitate prompt consultation with a pediatric oncologist. Later, early symptoms may evolve into relentless fatigue, joint or limb pain and swelling, swollen lymph nodes, and easy bruising or bleeding, prompting consultation with pediatric oncologists after multiple sessions with general physicians.

Advantages of Early Detection

When a child is diagnosed at an early stage, there is an overwhelming anxiety in both the patients and their family. It is imperative that the pediatric oncologist explains to them the advantages of early detection.

1. Less complex surgery

Early detection results in less invasive surgeries and aesthetically pleasing outcomes, reducing the need for additional procedures like reconstructive surgery.

2. Improved Treatment Success Rates

Early detection and timely intervention increase treatment success rates, thereby extending life expectancy. In fact, most cured children have a longer event-free survival, and even if they do have a relapse, targeted treatments are easily available.

3. Reduced Treatment Related Complication

In the early stages of pediatric cancers, a single treatment modality, such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation therapy, may be sufficient. It is also less likely to encounter complexities due to other coexisting diseases like type-1 diabetes. This not just reduces the treatment complexities but also reduces recovery time.

4. Preservation of Developmental Milestones

Early intervention helps in safeguarding a child’s developmental milestones. Early detection and timely treatment can lower the risk of complications that might affect the child’s physical and cognitive development, ensuring a healthier future.

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5. Minimum Side Effects

Early cancer detection allows for less invasive treatment options, minimizing long-term side effects. In pediatric cases, it is especially important to minimize long-term adverse effects to preserve the child’s overall wellbeing.

6. Enhanced Emotional and Psychological Support

Early detection not only aids in physical treatment but also provides families with crucial emotional and psychological support. This support helps in coping with the challenges of childhood cancer and proves invaluable for both the child and their families.

Related » The Joy of Cancer

Summing up

Raising awareness about the distinct symptoms of common childhood illnesses and pediatric cancer is crucial. Medical practitioners, pediatric oncology specialists, organizations, and community networks play a vital role in helping families navigate the challenges of a pediatric cancer diagnosis. While cure rates in childhood cancer are higher, minimizing long-term side effects is imperative, recognizing children as the future pillars of families, society, and the nation.

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Intezar Mehdi
Dr Intezar Mehdi is Director and Head of the Department, and Senior Consultant, Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and BMT, HCG Cancer Care, Bangalore


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