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SCH launches childhood cancer awareness month.

Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has dedicated December as a month to raise awareness of childhood cancer, in response to one of the recommendations of the National Cancer Strategy which is to improve the awareness of cancer signs and symptoms.

The SCH's National Cancer Implementation team has developed an annual cancer awareness calendar in support of the initiative.

The SCH, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) will be collaborating in effort to raise cancer awareness among the population of Qatar. The calendar identifies a range of topics to focus on including childhood cancer with a particular focus on leukemia.

Leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood cells or bone marrow and it is the most common of childhood malignancies.

The prevalence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is about four cases per 100,000 children worldwide with the largest numbers falling in the two to four years age range.

In children, 97% of leukemias are acute while 3% are chronic.

Of the acute leukemias, ALL is the most common. Childhood ALL is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).

White blood cells help the body to fight infections and other diseases.

However, the leukemic cells do not work like normal lymphocytes and are not able to fight infection very well.

As the number of these cells increases in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

In almost all cases of childhood leukemia, no apparent cause will be found, including in acute leukemias.

However, ionizing radiation, chemicals, drugs and genetic considerations are felt to be important influences. The symptoms of acute leukemia, which are a combination of fever, pallor and bleeding, stem from the fact that acute leukemia affects the blood cells through the malignant leukemic cells, causing anemia, neutropenia (an abnormally low level of white cells called neutrophils) with fever, and a low platelet count which can lead to easy bleeding.

If a child is pale, experiences fever and seems to bleed easily, the SCH advises that such child be taken immediately to the Primary Healthcare Centre or if the symptoms are severe, to a Paediatric Emergency Centre in order to be seen and assessed by a doctor.

Tests to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of leukemia and other possible causes of the symptoms include complete blood count with peripheral blood smear and bone marrow tests, as well as chest X-rays, and sampling and testing for blood, spinal fluid, heart function, as well as viral, bacterial and immunological screening.

Complete treatment for leukemia is available at HMC by a team of paediatric cancer specialists, nurses and other healthcare professionals dedicated to caring for children with cancer.

Treatment comprises chemotherapy (special drugs for treating cancer) and present day treatments now achieve remission in 95% of children and a survival rate of 70 to 80%.

A small number of children may need bone marrow transplantation, which is not currently available in Qatar but can be done abroad.

However, as part of efforts to improve outcomes for children with leukemia, the HMC Paediatric Haematology/Oncology section is undertaking a number of ongoing research studies supported by a grant awarded by Qatar Foundation.

The studies are collaborative efforts being conducted under the umbrella of the Middle East Childhood Cancer Alliance and includes research into the causes and incidence of ALL in children in the Middle East.

The Paediatric Haematology/Oncology section is also involved in educating Primary Healthcare and Paediatric Emergency Centres' physicians on recognising the symptoms of possible cancer in children early and how to refer them for diagnosis and treatment.

Gulf Times Newspaper 2012

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Article Type:Disease/Disorder overview
Date:Dec 19, 2012
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