Cancer now among top causes of death among kids in Brazil

An oncologist talks about the role of an early diagnosis

Published in 15/09/2021 - 12:53 By Alana Gandra - Rio de Janeiro

Even though cancer is a rare disease among children, it is responsible for most deaths among children and adolescents aged one to 19. It represents eight percent of the total, according to the National Cancer Institute José Alencar Gomes da Silva (Inca).

“It is the number one cause of death from a disease in Brazil and in developed countries, second only to external causes, like traumas and other external agents,” said Dr. Flávia Martins oncologist and member of the directors’ board of the Brazilian Society of Pediatric Oncology (Sobope).

The three most common types of cancer among children and young people are leukemia, tumors in the central nervous system, and lymphomas.

Recognizing the symptoms

In September, when Brazil conducts an awareness campaign against cancer in children and adolescents, the oncologist alerts that parents should not overlook symptoms in the child. “Pay attention to continuous fever. Keep in mind that kids do have fever, can be infected with viruses and have other infections, but these last up to three or five days and tend not to keep them bed-ridden or cause pain.” Another important sign, the doctor mentioned, is paleness.

“When the child seems pale and less active, parents must take it into account and seek medical assessment. [I’m talking about] any neurological symptom, like strabismus, when the child becomes cross-eyed, or when the child complains about a change in their eyesight or a headache.”

Quality of life

Inca figures on 2020–2022 indicate a yearly 8,460 new cases of cancer during childhood or adolescence—4,310 among males, 4,150 among females.

According to Inca, the strides made in cancer treatment during childhood and adolescence in the last four decades were significant. “Today, some 80 percent of children and adolescents assailed by the disease can be cured if diagnosed early and treated at specialized centers. Most of them will have good quality of life after the appropriate treatment,” Inca stated.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Fernando Fraga / Nira Foster

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