September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, raising the profile of the issues for children and young people who have been diagnosed with cancer.
In the UK at least 10 children are diagnosed with the disease every day. Worldwide, every month 25,000 families are told that their child is suffering from cancer.
The good news is that compared with survival rates 50 years ago, now 80% of childhood cancers can be successfully treated.
One of the challenges presented by the disease, particularly in children is in diagnosis. An average general practice will see a new case of childhood cancer only once every 6 years. Of those a quarter will be brain tumours. With infrequent instances of the disease, prompt diagnosis can be difficult.
Taking the example of brain tumours in young children, it can be particularly difficult to obtain an accurate history of symptoms in a pre school child who may not be able to articulate what is wrong with them or provide accurate information about visual symptoms or headaches. The same is true of other childhood cancers.
It is therefore important that GPs are well trained in how to identify those children who are presenting with symptoms that are not the norm and do not fit into the majority of patients with minor ailments.
Support during illness
Much support is needed for families both at the time of initial diagnosis and beyond. There are implications if a child has to travel to a treatment centre a long way away from home and there may be financial considerations if a parent or carer has to give up work to support their child.
Education, missing school and integrating back into school life later can also present difficulties.
In our Blog dated 1 August 2016, we looked at factors arising from long term survival and quality of life issues. With ever more successfully treated children and young people, the importance of having the right support available in the years after treatment.is vital.
If you or a family member have been affected by the issues in this article or feel that diagnosis of a childhood cancer has taken too long, contact a member of our Clinical Negligence Team for advice on 0800 316 8892.