What are paediatric cancer services?

Paediatric cancer services focus on the care of all children living with cancer. Cancer impacts the body physically and can affect a child's emotional and mental state. Palliative care is the support and management provided to young children with cancer and their families.

Common paediatric cancers include the following:

  • Leukaemia
    is cancer affecting the white blood cells that start in the bone marrow. Leukaemia can be acute, occurring suddenly, or chronic, in which case, cancer develops slowly over several months or, in some cases, years.
  • Tumours
    in the brain and spinal cord are benign or malignant growths categorised as primary or secondary cancer. Secondary/metastatic tumours occur due to cancer cells that travel from primary cancer and infiltrate other regions of the body.
  • Neuroblastoma
    develops from underdeveloped nerve cells located in different areas of the body. Usually, neuroblastoma occurs in or near the adrenal glands, one on each side of the kidneys.
  • Wilms’ tumour
    is a rare form of paediatric kidney cancer. Normally, Wilms’ tumour appears unilateral, occurring in a single kidney. However, the tumour can affect both kidneys (bilateral). Wilms’ tumour occurs at birth when the baby is developing in the womb. When the kidneys develop too early, the immature cells cannot develop into mature kidney cells. Instead, the cells grow abnormally, in excess, causing Wilms’ tumour.
  • Lymphoma
    can be classified as Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurs when cancer develops in the lymph nodes in any region of the body. In contrast, Hodgkin’s lymphoma arises in lymph nodes in the upper part of the body (armpits, chest and neck).
  • Retinoblastoma
    is a rare paediatric intraocular cancer commonly occurring in children under five. Common signs of retinoblastoma include a reflecting light in the pupil, squint, red eyes and deteriorating vision.
  • Bone cancer (osteosarcoma)
    normally affects children aged ten and young adults under twenty. Symptoms of paediatric bone cancer depend on its size, location and grade.

How do you treat childhood cancer?

Treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer. Dr Mthombeni administers radiation therapy for various childhood cancers. Normally, external beam radiation is the method used to treat childhood cancer. As a result, the procedure involves using a machine known as a linear accelerator to administer radiation to the body.



Are there side effects of paediatric radiation therapy?

Paediatric radiation therapy may have short-term adverse effects, such as exhaustion, skin rash or irritation, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Growth issues, cognitive decline, and an increased chance of additional tumours later in life are examples of longer-term adverse effects.


How often does my child need paediatric radiation therapy?

A child may undergo a different number of radiation treatments than another child. For a few weeks, radiation therapy is typically administered once per day, five days a week. However, depending on the size and location of the tumour, the required radiation dose, and the particular treatment strategy picked by Dr Mthombeni, the precise number and frequency of sessions will vary.


At what stage of cancer is paediatric radiation therapy recommended?

Radiation therapy is typically suggested for children who have the following:

  • Brain tumours
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Wilms' tumour
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