UAE: Cancer treatment outcomes for children better than adults, say doctors

Healthcare professionals explain leukemia is the most common form of cancer in kids, and urge parents to watch out for tell-tale signs of the ailment

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Nandini Sircar

Published: Wed 15 Feb 2023, 8:43 PM

Last updated: Tue 21 Feb 2023, 9:31 AM

Cancer treatment results are better for children compared to adults, highlight doctors in the UAE – on the occasion of Childhood Cancer Day, which is observed on February 15.

They explain leukaemia is the most common form of cancer in children, followed by brain tumours.

Healthcare professionals advise parents to watch out for any symptoms like prolonged fever or pain, or even lethargy over a sustained period of time, in their children.

Dr Nancy Nabil, Specialist, Paediatric Oncology, NMC Royal Hospital, Sharjah, says, “Paediatric cancer is much [more] rare compared to adults. Survival and cure rates are higher because of the nature of the diseases and the response to treatments. All these factors make the survival rate higher compared to adult cancers.”

Parents need to consult a paediatrician if a child is displaying symptoms like persistent fever, abnormal pain, muscles weakness. They underline that all these can help deduct child cancer at an early stage.

She adds, “If symptoms persist for more than a month, there are many tests like blood tests and MRIs that should be conducted. Other symptoms include eye examinations if there are any changes or [blurred vision], loss of appetite, or if the child is not responding to normal treatments and symptoms continue to [persist].”

Medical professionals reiterate that a healthy lifestyle, sleeping well and eating healthy foods will increase response to treatment.

Dr Mansi Sachdev, Consultant Paediatric Hematology, Oncology & Bone Marrow Transplant, Burjeel Medical City, says, “The majority of childhood cancers have very non-specific and vague complaints, so parents need to be very vigilant in identifying these signs and symptoms in their children. The most common cancer in children is blood cancer (known as acute leukaemia). Most of its symptoms are very non-specific like fever, looking pale, feeling very tired, sleeping most of the time, and sometimes increased bruising on the body.”

She adds, “Most children will have fevers on and off since they go to school ,but if the fever persists beyond two weeks and the cause can’t be identified, it needs to be investigated further. Sometimes, this could be the only symptom that a child with leukaemia can present with. The second most common cancer in children is a brain tumour. If the child is complaining of a persisting headache or vomiting, then the child needs to be taken to the paediatrician.”

Cancer is not preventable in the paediatric age group, note doctors, and accounts for about four per cent of the cancer caseload globally.

Dr Pranay Taori, Consultant Medical Oncology, Aster Hospital, Qusais says, “As a care giver, my advice to parents is to accept cancer as it is. Cancer is treatable and people come out of cancer and lead a happy life. The causes of most childhood cancers are largely unknown. About five per cent of all cancers in children are caused by an inherited mutation.”

He adds, “But in most paediatric cases, treatment results are better compared to adults. Children are mostly chemo responsive, and the chances are [higher] that they recover. Having said this, some children are likely to develop malignancy later in their life as well. Otherwise, they lead a normal life.”

Oncologists point out that the types of treatment that a child with cancer receives will depend on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. “Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplant,” noted Taori.


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